Economy expected to make headway in H1
Ministry upbeat on tourism prospects
The Thai economy is likely to start recovering in the first half of this year thanks to the government's better control of Covid-19 infections, the state's economic stimulus measures as well as accelerated infrastructure development, says Deputy Prime Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow.
According to Mr Supattanapong, the resumption of the Test & Go tourism scheme on Feb 1 will also help revitalise the tourism industry.
The Tourism and Sports Ministry expects the resumption of the Test & Go tourism scheme should allow the country to attract at least 8 million tourists this year.
"Some 2,500 passengers from 46 flights arrived at Suvarnabhumi airport on Feb 1, the first day the Test & Go scheme resumed," he said.
The National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC), the government's planning unit, has scheduled the announcement of the country's economic figures for the fourth quarter of 2021 and this year's forecast on Feb 21.
Mr Supattanapong said overall business sentiment is also improving, citing the latest survey by Japanese Chamber of Commerce, Bangkok on business sentiment among Japanese companies in Thailand that shows sentiment is forecast to improve to reach the highest point in seven years.
Additional details about the survey have not been disclosed.
Among the challenging negative factors, the rise in the prices of oil and goods is particularly notable, according to Mr Supattanapong.
Nonetheless, he said the government is trying its best to tackle such issues.
As part of these efforts, Mr Supattanapong said tomorrow's meeting of the National Oil Palm Policy Committee, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, is scheduled to approve a proposal to reduce the level of palm oil-derived methyl ester blended in diesel to 5%.
On Tuesday, the Energy Policy Administration Committee (Epac) decided to sell only diesel blended with 5% palm oil-derived methyl ester at petrol stations from this Saturday, instead of the 7% formula, as it is struggling to deal with soaring global oil prices.
The change does not decrease the price of diesel but it should ease the government's financial burden, as the state has put a cap on diesel prices at 30 baht a litre since last year.
Called biodiesel B5 due to the 5% methyl ester mix, the fuel is single-grade biodiesel that Epac estimates will be sold domestically until the end of March.
The mix of diesel with methyl ester aims to reduce dependence on oil and support palm oil prices, but the authorities need to reduce the methyl ester proportion as the prices of both diesel and methyl ester have increased.
The reference price of methyl ester, also known as purified biodiesel (B100), currently stands at 57.28 baht a litre, while the ex-refinery price of high-speed diesel is 24.71 baht a litre, according to the Energy Policy and Planning Office (Eppo).
Methyl ester was priced at 46.88 baht a litre in November 2021.
The reduction of methyl ester to 5% followed a meeting of Epac on Monday night, chaired by Mr Supattanapong, who is also the energy minister.
Mr Supattanapong said the reduction would help the state Oil Fund, which is supported by 20 billion baht in loans from commercial banks as it subsidises the cap on the price of diesel.
Epac earlier postponed offering 10% and 20% methyl ester blended diesel, forcing fuel retailers to sell only biodiesel B7 from Dec 1 last year until March 2022.