Finance Ministry tasked with protecting Thai economy

Finance Ministry tasked with protecting Thai economy

Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana has instructed his ministry to seek measures to cushion the economy against global volatility.

The ministry first needs to evaluate the possibility that the global economic downturn will spill over into the Thai economy and then determine measures to alleviate the effects, he said after a meeting with the agency's officials.

"We must brace for global economic volatility resulting from the trade conflict," Mr Uttama said.

The revised 2020 budget deficit of 469 billion baht should be sufficient to provide buffers against fluctuation, he said. The measures will be a component of the government's economic stimulus package.

The ministry will prioritise accelerating public and state enterprise investment to stimulate the country's economy. The ministry has also discussed potential monetary policy measures with the Bank of Thailand.

With the economy flagging, the private sector has asked the new government to prioritise issuing stimulus measures.

Mr Uttama said the new stimulus measures would have to be consistent with the available budget. Multiple measures may be launched in succession as required by the changing economic situation.

The economy is losing momentum, with annual growth of 2.8% in the first quarter -- the slowest pace in more than four years.

The gloomy economic and export outlooks, as well as a three-month delay in fiscal 2020 budget disbursement from Oct 1, have prompted pessimism among policymakers and private research houses. Some predict that growth could fall below 3% this year.

Mr Uttama said he has told each department in the ministry to specify what it will do in the next three months and report to him.

Their agenda must sharpen the country's competitiveness and upgrade the economy, attract private sector investment in the public sector to alleviate the fiscal burden, push the country towards a digital economy, decentralise growth in provinces to reinforce rural communities and address living costs to improve quality of life, he said.

Mr Uttama also wants the ministry to harness big data to apply information at hand, revamp the taxation system to create fairness for all parties, improve tax collection efficiency and impose new taxes, such as a levy for e-commerce businesses.

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