World Bank cuts Thai GDP growth outlook to 3.4% this year

World Bank cuts Thai GDP growth outlook to 3.4% this year

People visit the Terminal 21 shopping centre for shopping on Dec 31, 2020. (Reuters photo)
People visit the Terminal 21 shopping centre for shopping on Dec 31, 2020. (Reuters photo)

Thailand's economy is expected to grow 3.4% this year, down from the 4% projected earlier, and the recovery would be gradual amid high uncertainties and weak tourism, the World Bank said on Friday.

Thailand's tourism-reliant economy shrank 6.1% last year, its deepest slump in over two decades, with tourism battered by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The government still has room to support the economy, which is expected to return to pre-Covid-19 levels in 2022, Kiatipong Ariyapruchya, senior country economist for Thailand, told a briefing.

"Fiscal policy remains key to shore up the economy this year and next," noting the country's public debt was not too high.

On Friday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told reporters the government aimed to achieve GDP growth of 4% this year and in 2022 by accelerating investment and spending as planned.

He asked the private sector and the public to spend and invest more to help the recovery.

The GDP growth projections compared with 2.6% forecast by the International Monetary Fund and 3% by the Bank of Thailand.

While the country has largely contained its latest coronavirus outbreak and has eased restrictions, its all-important tourism sector, hit by global travel curbs, continues to suffer. However, the country is preparing to gradually reopen to foreign visitors.

In February, the number of foreign tourists plunged 99.7% year-on-year to 5,741, after a 99.8% slump in January.

The central bank has forecast 3 million foreign tourists this year after 6.7 million last year and nearly 40 million in 2019 who spent 1.91 trillion baht.

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