Chartchai Parasuk, PhD, is a freelance economist.
There are not many countries on this planet that depend on outside markets like Thailand. Exports of goods account for 54% of GDP while foreign tourism income accounts for another 12% -- totaling 66% of GDP. The rest is made up by domestic private consumption.
As 44.5% of the world population has received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, most economies are looking forward to a return to pre-pandemic economic levels by 2022. Thailand is certainly one of them. We beat the global average with 45.7% of our population receiving the first dose and 26.4% receiving both doses. The government set a target that by year-end, more than 70% of the population will be fully vaccinated, including third booster doses. Will we see a return to the normal economic activities of 2019 by next year? The answer is not yet, and, worse, maybe never.
This is not a China bashing article. The idea for today's article started when the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Speaker of the House cautioned Thais, the press, and members of parliament against criticising Chinese Covid-19 vaccines as it might upset the Thai-China relationship.
This is not really a good time for economists and/or economic research institutions to make GDP growth projections for Thailand as the Covid-19 pandemic is far from settling down. Unstable economic conditions have caused a well-known research institute to revise its 2021 growth projections five times already.
If the government does not wish to see a collapse of society, it must rethink its Covid-19 strategy. First, it must admit that the Covid-19 outbreak is not controllable after the outbreak has changed from the cluster level (individual based) to the community level (activity based).
The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) in last December's forecast raised its global GDP growth forecast for 2021 from 4.2% to 5.8% as of May 2021, primarily due to the achievement of Covid-19 vaccine rollout in developed nations. The GDP growth rate for the US is estimated to be as high as 6.9% this year -- an admirable rise from a contraction of 3.5% last year. The US is not the only economy that benefits from a quick vaccine rollout. The UK economy is projected to grow at an even higher rate of 7.5% in 2021 as more than 40% of its population has been fully vaccinated and about 60% of its population received at least one dose.