Consumer confidence reaches new seven-year high in March

Consumer confidence reaches new seven-year high in March

Consumer confidence rose for a sixth straight month in March, hitting a seven-year high, as consumers believe in the country's economic prospects, the global economic recovery, growing tourism and the government's long-term 2-trillion-baht infrastructure plan.

The infrastructure plans are meant to boost investment and domestic spending over the next seven years, said Thanavath Phonvichai, vice-president for research and director of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce.

Parliament endorsed the infrastructure bill in principle last Friday.

A joint committee will be set up to consider the details and necessities of each project, possibly leading to amendment of the bill.

The Finance Ministry expects a bill empowering the government to borrow 2 trillion baht over the next seven years for infrastructure projects will take effect by August.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said recently the government hoped the bill would increase public investment by 300-400 billion baht annually over seven years, and push the compound gross domestic product for that period to 120 trillion baht. Annual GDP stood at 11 trillion baht last year.

Mr Thanavath said the chamber remains confident the Thai economy will grow by 5% this year. However, that growth estimate is based on a lack of negative factors, including political strife and the adverse impact the financial crisis in Cyprus could have on the global economic recovery.

The consumer confidence index climbed to 84.8 points last month from 84 in February and 81.7 in January. The overall economic index came in at 75 points, up from 74.3, while the index for job opportunities registered at 76.4, up from 75.5 points.

The index on future income increased to 102.9 points, up from 102.2 in February.

A score of less than 100 points indicates consumers are more pessimistic than optimistic about exports, the cost of living, political uncertainty and the global economic outlook. A reading above 100 means they expect improving conditions.

In a related development, spending during the upcoming Songkran festival is forecast to surge 10.4% this year to 114 billion baht. Last year Songkran spending reached 103 billion baht.

The figures are based on a survey of 1,183 respondents conducted from March 26-30.

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