The Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking (JSCCIB) is calling on the government to maintain the power tariff, which is used to calculate electricity bills, at 3.99 baht per kilowatt-hour (unit) because a higher rate would drive up operating costs, causing manufacturers to increase prices by 5-10%.
The Energy Regulatory Commission earlier proposed raising the tariff to 4.68 baht a unit, citing a hike in fuel costs and the need to reimburse the state Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat).
Part of the power bills would be paid to Egat, which shouldered huge losses after it subsidised electricity bills between September 2021 and May 2023, easing the impact of higher fuel prices for households and businesses.
The new tariff is considered "too high" by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who promised to have talks with officials to adjust the rate.
The 3.99-baht rate is valid through the end of December. A new rate is determined every four months.
"If the power tariff rises to 4.68 baht a unit, businesses will not be able to control energy costs and will need to increase the prices of goods, eventually affecting the cost of living," said Kriengkrai Thiennukul, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), a key member of the JSCCIB.
He said he expects operating costs to increase by 17% if the 4.68-baht rate is imposed.
If the government increases the rate to 4.20 baht a unit, as recently suggested by the Energy Ministry, manufacturers' costs would increase by 5%, resulting in prices of goods rising by 2-4%.
Isares Rattanadilok Na Phuket, vice-chairman of the FTI, said the JSCCIB wants the government to come up with a long-term plan to adjust Thailand's energy price structure, which is blamed for more expensive power bills than in some neighbouring countries, such as Vietnam.
Gas prices must be carefully managed to ensure they will not drive up power bills, as gas is used for roughly 60% of power generation in the country, and it is needed to support the petrochemical industry, he said.
If Thailand's electricity bills remain high, it cannot compete with other countries in drawing foreign investment, said Sanan Angubolkul, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce.
The JSCCIB expects Thailand's GDP to grow by 2.8-3.3% next year, with exports estimated to expand by 2-3% and inflation registering 1.7-2.2%.
The 2024 economic growth projection includes the state's plan to implement a 10,000-baht digital money handout.
This year GDP is expected to grow by 2.5-3%, with exports contracting 1-2% and inflation at 1.3-1.7%, according to the committee.
For the first nine months this year, the economy grew by 1.9%, attributed to sluggish exports stemming from the global slowdown, especially in the US and Europe.