Panel wary of Omicron, border spat

Panel wary of Omicron, border spat

The Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking (JSCCIB) warns the economy could falter because of the spread of the Omicron variant and the Russia-Ukraine standoff.

Both factors could dent the global economy, slowing a Thai economic recovery in 2022, said Supant Mongkolsuthree, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) as well as JSCCIB.

"The spread of Omicron may not cause a severe impact, as happened with the Delta variant last year in Thailand, but outbreaks are still affecting economic growth this year," he said.

In addition, if the conflict between Ukraine and Russia escalates, it will deal a blow to the global economy and oil prices would ratchet up, leading to higher inflation, said Mr Supant.

The JSCCIB is worried about the impact of the two factors on global supply chains and the manufacturing sector.

He said it would be very unpleasant if lockdown measures are reimposed by some countries to contain the spread of the virus and global oil prices rise to US$100 a barrel.

The Omicron spread in Thailand is still a risk factor as the number of new infections remains high.

The Public Health Ministry yesterday announced Thailand registered 22 more Covid-19 fatalities and 8,587 new cases. The numbers were an increase, compared with 12 coronavirus-related fatalities and 7,422 new cases reported on Tuesday morning.

The dispute between Ukraine and Russia must be monitored, said Mr Supant.

The committee is worried Thailand's inflation rate will continue to surge as global oil prices keep increasing. This will cause the prices of raw materials to become more expensive, in turn leading to higher goods prices, he said.

The group expects inflation to stand at 1.5-2.5% in 2022, but for the first six months, the rate could increase to 3%, hindering economic recovery, with growth likely to be lower than expected.

The JSCCIB maintains its GDP growth forecast at 3-4.5% this year, with exports growing by 3-5%.

Sanan Angubolkul, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce and a member of JSCCIB, said he will meet Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith tomorrow to discuss stimulus packages, especially the "Shop Dee Mee Khuen" (shop and payback) scheme, slated to end on Feb 15.

The JSCCIB wants the government to extend the scheme and wants to know Mr Arkhom's views.

The group will also suggest the government increase its financial support for the fourth phase of the co-payment subsidy scheme, said Mr Sanan. Eligible people are allotted 1,200 baht a person, down from 1,500 baht in previous phases.

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