Chartchai Parasuk, PhD, is a freelance economist.
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.
It is now official. An emergency decree authorising the Ministry of Finance to borrow money to solve the economic and social problems arising from the Covid-19 outbreak was published in the Royal Gazette on Tuesday. However, the authorised amount is 500 billion baht, not 700 billion baht as we had heard from various sources. The spending is divided into three categories: 30 billion baht for healthcare management; 300 billion baht for economic relief programmes, and 170 billion baht for economic recovery projects.
In the second quarter of 2020, the Thai economy shrank as much as 12.1%, resulting in a loss of 610 billion baht in GDP. Such a huge loss was the impact of Covid-19, caused by fear of the pandemic, the impact of strict lockdown measures, and a loss of revenue from foreign tourists.
Wow. What a difference two weeks makes! In my previous article, I wrote, with grave concern, that over 6,000 people had been infected with Covid-19 within just two weeks of the third outbreak. Two weeks later, the number of cases from the third wave alone, which started early this month, has skyrocketed five-fold to over 30,000 cases. Who knows when and how this round will end?
Today's article is "breaking news" as I am in the midst of writing a five-part series about the liquidity crisis risk facing the country. I have already published the first two parts of the series -- origins of the risk and experience from 1997 economic crisis. I still have three more articles to go. They are: (1) warning signs of the risk, (2) shielding oneself from the risk, and (3) appropriate macro-economic policy responses. I do not want to break the series because warning signs are getting stronger every day such as the alarming US$8.4 billion (263 billion baht) outflow in March and the 154 billion baht government cash deficit in February.
Today is April Fools' day. But there is no fooling about the threat of liquidity crisis. I am sure that many readers are sceptical about the possibility of a liquidity crunch in this country. First, the government debt to GDP ratio is less than 60% which is not high by international standards. Second, Thailand now, unlike in 1997, has adopted a flexible exchange rate system which has a low risk of currency speculation. And, third, the country has international reserves equivalent to 11 months of imports of goods and services which is two times higher than IMF's suggested requirement. How could an economy this good be at risk?
The world is having great economic news. All international economic agencies have upgraded world economic forecasts for 2021. The latest one is the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) who raises global economic growth forecast from 4.2% (December 2020's forecast) to 5.6% (March 2021's forecast). A higher growth prospect is the result of a fast roll-out of Covid-19 vaccination; super-large US economic stimulus package; and accelerated growth of the Chinese economy. The OECD projected that the US economy would grow by 6.5% while the Chinese economy would expand by 7.8% this year. These two giant economies account for 41% of the world economy. Therefore, high growth from these two countries is likely to induce high economic growth in other economies as well.