B1 trillion to beat Omicron
Injection to cushion against volatility
The government will inject around one trillion baht into the economy next year to cushion against any volatility that may be caused by the Omicron variant of Covid-19, Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said on Thursday.
He was speaking on the sidelines of the Bangkok Post International Forum 2021, held under the theme "Unleashing the Future: A Glimpse into 2022 and Beyond".
About 600 billion baht will be drawn from state investment funds for the 2022 fiscal year, while about 300 billion baht will be taken out of state enterprises' investment funds, he said.
The government also has another 250 billion baht left from the 500 billion baht it borrowed using the second emergency loan decree to mitigate the pandemic's impact on the economy, he said.
Jirayut Srupsrisopa, above, founder & group chief executive officer, Bitkub Capital Group Holding, and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, left, address the Bangkok Post International Forum 2021. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)
The government will speed up the disbursement of the funds next year, he said.
Mr Arkhom said the government is trying to maintain a balance between keeping the economy running and taking precautions to contain the spread of the virus.
In his keynote speech, Mr Arkhom said the economy is improving as the Covid-19 situation in Thailand continues to ease.
However, he said uncertainties remain in the wake of the Omicron strain's emergence, saying Thailand must remain cautiously optimistic.
The government, he said, is trying its utmost to resuscitate the economy and prepare for a post-Covid world.
He said that since last year, the economy has contracted by 6.1%, the first economic contraction in 11 years since the US subprime mortgage crisis in 2009.
This year, the economy is showing signs of recovery, with the country's GDP contracting only by 0.3% in the third quarter of this year, which is less than expected, he said.
Yuriko Koike, the Governor of Tokyo.
The economy has been bolstered by exports and government measures aimed at boosting people's purchasing power and easing the rising cost of living, he said.
He expects the economy to recover and show positive growth in the fourth quarter of this year, as the Covid-19 situation in Thailand continues to ease with the national vaccination drive making substantial progress.
This enabled the government to relax its virus containment measures and reopen the country on Nov 1, he said.
This year, the minister said, the Finance Ministry forecast the economy will expand by 1%.
Next year, the economy is expected to pick up, growing by up to 4% driven by increasing foreign tourist arrivals, in turn enabled by the gradual decline in Covid-19 cases and the country's reopening, he said.
Furthermore, exports are likely to continue growing and will be the key driver of Thailand's economic growth next year, he said.
However, there are some risks that need to be closely monitored, such as the volatile crude oil prices and the risks posed by the Omicron variant.
Thailand has learned how to manage Covid-19 from experience and the nation will be able to mitigate the impact of the new virus variant, he said.
Talking about crude oil price volatility, the minister said it is only a short-term impact from Covid-19, and the situation will ultimately improve.
Moreover, Thailand has also started to move away from fossil fuels, which reduces its exposure to price volatility, Mr Arkhom said.
To ensure Thailand's economy can recover quickly, the main focus should be on promoting inclusive growth, he said.
The government is also preparing to restructure the economy to boost Thailand's competitiveness in the global market, with a focus on growth that is more sustainable and environmentally friendly, Mr Arkhom added.
He said the government's approaches to economic restructuring include the promotion of the bio-circular-green economy principles, acceleration of investments in large-scale infrastructure projects, and the promotion of a digital economy and the capital market.
He said the Finance Ministry will work closely with the Bank of Thailand to ensure monetary and fiscal policies are in sync, in order to create a favourable environment for a quick economic recovery.
Accommodative economic policies are necessary to ensure a robust recovery, Mr Arkhom said.