Tourism aid headed to economic cabinet

Tourism aid headed to economic cabinet

Package to provide relief for operators

Monks at Wat Arun wear masks for protection. The tourism sector, a key driver of Thailand's GDP, has been crippled by the coronavirus outbreak. (Photo by Arnun Chonmahatrakool)
Monks at Wat Arun wear masks for protection. The tourism sector, a key driver of Thailand's GDP, has been crippled by the coronavirus outbreak. (Photo by Arnun Chonmahatrakool)

Large-scale measures to help tourism-related operators and employees affected by the coronavirus epidemic are set to go before the economic cabinet this Friday.

Given that other ministries are involved in the relief package, it needs to be discussed in the economic ministers' meeting before forwarding to the cabinet for approval, said Lavaron Sangsnit, director-general of the Fiscal Policy Office (FPO).

The package launch is aimed at helping tourism-related operators and employees get through this hard period, Mr Lavaron said.

The package will comprise both financial and non-financial measures to enable the tourism workforce to earn a living, he said.

A source at the Finance Ministry said recently that the package would include 100 billion baht in soft loans for tourism-related operators and training courses in return for income to help workers in the industry with daily expenses.

The soft loans, sponsored by Government Savings Bank, would be offered through commercial banks with an interest rate of 3-4% to tourism-related operators facing a liquidity crunch, while the government would also relax debt repayment conditions for those who retained enough liquidity to prevent them from laying off employees.

"The assistance must be provided to all parties and people ravaged by the impact, so the size of such measures is pretty large," Mr Lavaron said.

The government is able to use measures to keep the economy at full throttle after the fiscal 2020 budget bill came into force, he said, as inflation remains subdued, public debt is low and state agencies must take out fiscal budget for the remaining 6-7 months.

With a raft of relief and stimulus measures, the economy could grow by 2% in 2020, Mr Lavaron said.

The FPO is poised to downgrade its 2.8% forecast for full-year GDP growth in April, as containment of the coronavirus is expected to take longer than three months.

Although some parties have predicted economic growth falling short of 1% in the first quarter, these projections did not account for the availability of fiscal 2020 budget, Mr Lavaron said.

The Budget Bureau earlier estimated that 400 billion baht in state investment budget was ready to be doled out immediately and that the impact on the economy would be limited if exports managed to expand in February and March after January's surprise 3.4% rebound.

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