Businesses urge further easing of lockdown

Businesses urge further easing of lockdown

Department stores are expected to reopen at the weekend. Apichart Jinakul
Department stores are expected to reopen at the weekend. Apichart Jinakul

The private sector is calling on the government to continue easing its lockdown measures to allow other businesses, particularly those related to tourism and supply chains, to restart to curb escalating unemployment.

Thanavath Phonvichai, president of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC), said the latest survey on business sentiment nationwide has found operators most desire an easing of lockdown measures by the government as soon as possible to prevent any further business interruption.

"Tourism and supply chains are the sectors most affected by the virus outbreak, resulting in lower employment," said Mr Thanavath. "Consumer purchasing power has dwindled. We expect the number of unemployed will decrease if businesses are allowed to reopen this month."

The Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking predicted last month about 7 million workers will be out of a job by June because of shutdowns from the pandemic, with most of the layoffs being low-paid workers.

An estimated 4.2 million retail and shopping mall workers would lose their jobs, along with 1 million construction workers, 978,000 hotel workers, 250,000 restaurant workers, 200,000 spa and massage workers, and 200,000 garment factory workers.

Thailand's labour market employs about 38 million workers.

According to Mr Thanavath, the business sector also calls on the government to come up with relief measures for affected businesses that have to temporarily cease operation because of the Covid-19 crisis.

The measures include relaxing lending conditions to small and medium-sized enterprises and access to new loans to ease their liquidity and retain their employment.

In a related development, the UTCC reported on Monday business confidence dipped to 32.1 in April from 37.5 in March, 44.9 in February and 45.4 in January. The April reading was a 28-month low since January 2018.

The bearish business sentiment stemmed from the unabated spread of the coronavirus, the state of emergency and curfew, widespread drought and lower exports.

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