State vows Omicron plans in place
Deputy PM confident variant can be fought
The government remains confident it can handle the spread of the Covid-19 Omicron variant and its potential risks to the economy, says Deputy Prime Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow.
Mr Supattanapong said Thailand's public health management is ready to cope with potential risks from the new strain and is equipped to contain its spread.
"Given the lessons learned, I believe the government's containment plans are better than previous ones," he said.
"Responsible agencies now have much more experience in containing the spread than in the past."
According to Mr Supattanapong, the government is also speeding up talks with vaccine producers and purchasing vaccines to treat the Omicron variant, with the aim of giving the jabs first to vaccinated people and foreign workers.
The government ordered 120 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines for this year, with 90 million already delivered.
He said the Thai economy this year is likely to see marginal growth despite a contraction in the third quarter, citing the operating results of many companies, notably in energy, exports and logistics, which have seen business recover in the fourth quarter.
The National Economic and Social Development Council reported on Nov 15 the Thai economy contracted by 0.3% year-on-year in the third quarter, compared with 7.6% growth in the previous quarter.
The contraction largely stemmed from Covid-19 outbreaks, which adversely affected economic activities and people's livelihoods.
After seasonal adjustments, the economy shrank by 1.1% from the second quarter.
In the first nine months of 2021, the Thai economy expanded by 1.3%.
The government's planning unit predicts the Thai economy will grow by 1.2% this year, recovering from a 6.1% contraction in 2020, with next year's expansion expected to be between 3.5-4.5%.
According to Mr Supattanapong, the government's future economic management will focus on rehabilitating the tourism sector, tackling household debt and offering assistance to low-income earners.
The government needs to create opportunities for digital upgrades, both in government agencies and the private sector, especially using 5G technology, continued infrastructure development, and private investment stimulus, he said.
The government is also committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to create opportunities for new businesses focusing on renewable and clean energy as well as electric vehicles.
"Investment in the energy sector is estimated at 800 billion baht a year for the next several years, which can generate income for the Thai economy and create new jobs," Mr Supattanapong said.