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December 23, 2008

Unctad chief: Thailand needs stimulus package to boost economy
Thailand's new government should not hesitate to provide measures to stimulate the local economy, both directly and indirectly, if it wants the country to successfully weather the global economic storm, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) chief, reported state news agency TNA.

Delivering a keynote speech on "The Thai Economy Amidst Global Economic Difficulties: Opportunities and Risks," Unctad Secretary-General Supachai Panichpakdi said that although many analysts see the Thai economy contracting in 2009, he does not expect it to experience negative growth.

To weather the global economic crisis, Dr Supachai advised Thailand's new government to issue measures to stimulate the local economy both directly and indirectly, accelerate overseeing investment and encourage financial institutions to lend particularly to small- and medium-size enterprises.

No one could guess or predict how the Thai economy will perform next year, Dr Supachai said, while asserting Thailand's economic performance will not contract, but how much it grows remains difficult to project.

The Unctad chief said the world economy next year would be in great difficulties and would become its worst in 60-70 years, since the end of World War II and the era of the Great Depression.

Despite the troubles of the world economy, Dr Supachai predicts, Asian economic conditions -- including Thailand's at present -- are not similar to those witnessed 11 years ago in the 1997 crisis because private sector debts are low.

In addition, Asia's international reserves are as much as 60 percent of the world's total.

Dr Supachai said the world economic crisis had affected investment and trade, and believed global trade would contract by 1-2 percent next year.

Under the circumstances, he said, Asian countries would have difficulties in trade since they rely upon export markets for 50-70 per cent of their business. Still, he viewed the Thai economic fundamentals remained strong, the baht had strengthened, interest rates had declined, and the inflation rate is very low.

Also, export competitiveness is not of concern because Thailand is competent to compete.

In a related story, local daily the Bangkok Post quoted Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij as saying Tuesday that the government will likely spend at least 100 billion baht of the fiscal 2009 budget to stimulate the sluggish economy.

The minister said the government will have to consider the degree of importance of different projects and tasks cautiously before spending the budget and he could not foresee whether the government’s spending next year will lead to a budget deficit of 180 billion baht.

The Finance Ministry executives will decide whether the six six-month economic stimulus measures will be continued, Korn said. Some of the measures that could be lifted include public assistance on utility costs and excise tax reduction on fuel.

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