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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        15  January 2011

Thais dispute economic forecast

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Economists expect Thailand willtop the World Bank's 3.2 percent growth forecast as world trade is healthy and domestic consumption has been unshaken by political tensions.

The World Bank expects Thailand to be the weakest performer in Southeast Asia in 2011. It also forecast on Thursday that global growth would slow to 3.3 percent this year from 4 in a post-crisis last year.

Supachai Panitchpakdi, secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, said healthy intra-regional trade in manufactured goods to serve rising regional demand would be a key driver of Thai economic growth.

''World trade will remain healthy this year because there is an integrated production system to serve rising regional final demand. There is also better signal for foreign direct investment to Thailand which could eventually lift wages,'' said Dr Supachai, a former Thai deputy prime minister.

The general election, which is perceived as a key uncertainty by some economists, will barely affect the economy, in his view. ''I think the world has placed too much weight on the impact of political problems on the Thai economy,'' he said.

''Political problems shouldn't be used to weigh down our economic success. Foreign direct investment from Japan, for instance, remains bright in this year. I believe that the Thai economy can overcome politics.''

Prasarn Trairatvorakul, the governor of the Bank of Thailand, said there was a high possibility that economic growth could reach 4 percent in this year.

Various research bodies have forecasts ranging from 3-5%, based on each agency's assumption. They are expected to revise forecasts later this year as assumptions change, he said.

Dr Supachai said the government's measure to register informal workers with the Social Security Fund would increase domestic consumption, as would policies including farm price guarantees and wage increases.

However, he cautioned that the government should do more to prepare for the Asean single market that would emerge over the next four years. He recommended standardisation of customs procedures and a thorough logistics plan to form a network from Thailand to the huge Dawei industrial complex planned in Burma and to other neighbouring countries.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More

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