Modern trade index craters
Modern trade sentiment fell to the lowest level in two years in the second quarter, as business operators fretted over the impact of the pandemic.
Thanavath Phonvichai, president of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said the outbreak has affected not only business operations but also people's lifestyles, international tourist arrivals, consumption and the overall economy.
"People prefer to stay home and buy only essential products. Exports also plunged while household debts soared," said Mr Thanavath.
"These directly affect consumer purchasing power and result in a drop in modern trade sales."
The university reported on Thursday the modern trade sentiment index stood at 46.4 points in the second quarter, the lowest since it initiated the index in the third quarter of 2018.
He said the university is upbeat sentiment will improve in the third quarter when the virus situation improves.
"The private sector has already proposed the government speed up tackling problems related to the impact of the virus, particularly in the area of financial liquidity," said Mr Thanavath.
"The government needs to offer soft loans for small and medium-sized enterprises as soon as possible, while introducing measures to stimulate domestic consumption, particularly through the Shop Chuay Chart tax break measure, with minimum spending worth up to 50,000 baht possibly in the late third to fourth quarter this year."
The government is also being urged to rev up aid measures for those unemployed because of the pandemic, as well as offering tax incentives for taxpayers, investors and those who buy assets for investment.
He said the government should promote hourly wages, as the private sector is ready to immediately employ more than 5,000 people if hourly wages are endorsed by the government.
Surong Bulakul, vice-chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said the private sector is concerned about unemployment prospects.
Mr Surong requested the government speed up establishing a new economic ministerial team to push stimulus efforts and curb rising unemployment.
The Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) recently forecast a prolonged pandemic will likely leave up to 8 million people unemployed by the end of this year.
The economy in the second half of 2020 will not fully recover because the stimulus packages will take time to come into effect, according to the FTI.
The total workforce in Thailand numbers 37.3 million, encompassing those who work in services (47%), agriculture (30%) and factories (23%).
Unemployment stands at 3.3 million as a result of the sluggish economy and the outbreak.