Economy slows in January on Omicron after Q4 recovery

Economy slows in January on Omicron after Q4 recovery

Two women are seen at Suvarnabhumi airport on Monday on the eve of the resumption of the Test & Go programme for foreign arrivals. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Two women are seen at Suvarnabhumi airport on Monday on the eve of the resumption of the Test & Go programme for foreign arrivals. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Thailand's economic activity slowed in January due to a new coronavirus outbreak fuelled by the Omicron variant, cutting short a recovery in the final quarter of 2021, the Bank of Thailand (BoT) said on Monday.

The economy in the fourth quarter was helped by robust exports and an easing of Covid-19 curbs.

But the abrupt suspension of a quarantine waiver programme for international arrivals in December has impacted tourism, however. The waiver will resume on Tuesday.

"We started to see the spread of the Omicron late in December. That has somewhat slowed economic activity in January. But part of that is a seasonal adjustment," Chayawadee Chai-Anant, senior director at the Bank of Thailand, told a news conference.

In December, the economy improved from November with exports increasing and tourism improving following a broad re-opening to foreign visitors in November, after 20 months of mandatory quarantine that saw annual arrivals plunge to less than 1% of pre-pandemic numbers.

Private consumption and investment also increased, the BoT said in a statement.

Exports, a key driver of growth, jumped 23% in December from a year earlier, with imports up 28.2% year-on-year and a trade surplus of $2.8 billion, the BoT said.

The country recorded a current account deficit of $1.4 billion in December after November's surplus of $0.3 billion.

The economy in the final quarter of 2021 likely performed better than the previous quarter and better than expected, Ms Chayawadee said, without giving specific forecasts.

Official fourth-quarter and 2021 GDP data are due to be released next month.

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