Businesses downbeat on prospects
Businesses remain wary of Thailand's economic prospects because of myriad negative factors including falling exports, tepid consumption, low farm prices and higher debts.
Somkiat Anurat, vice-chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC), said its latest survey on businesses in the East, Northeast, Central, North and South regions found 43.7% of entrepreneurs had seen their sales drop, while 45.6% said production costs had risen.
Most believed overall economic and sales conditions would improve in the second half of the year driven largely by the government's accelerated infrastructure spending.
Nonetheless, they forecast the economy would grow by only 3% this year, down from 3.5% projected earlier.
Regional businesses account for 70% of GDP, with Bangkok making up 30%.
In a move to stimulate the regional economy and raise people's income, the TCC plans to propose economic strategy plans for the five regions to the Interior Ministry soon.
Pratya Samalapa, chairman of the chamber's eastern economic development committee, said it was revving up plans to promote the East as a fruit metropolis, aiming to raise sales of durian from 40 billion to 100 billion baht in eight years.
Jit Siratranont, chairman of the chamber's economic development committee for the Central region, said it was committed to capitalising on the richness of the region's agricultural products and tourism.
Promotions will focus on bananas, organic vegetables and rice, he said.
Watana Thanasakcharoen, chairman of the southern economic development committee, said the region's economy had promising prospects this year thanks to growing tourism along the Gulf of Thailand and Andaman, recovering rubber prices and booming border trade.
Prapan Techasakkolkijkoon, chairman of the economic development committee for the Northeast, said the region had potential to be promoted as the trading centre for agricultural and processed products given its trade links to Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and China.
Hom Mali fragrant rice, which is grown in Surin, Maha Sarakham, Buri Ram, Si Sa Ket, Roi Et and Yasothon provinces, was granted geographical indication status by the European Union in March 2013.