Chartchai Parasuk, PhD, is a freelance economist.
Even though the coronavirus outbreak isn't over yet, economists are already counting the damage. Research houses estimate that China's gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the first quarter of this year could be less than 4% -- a sharp drop from the usual 6%-plus growth rate. Of course, the economic impact won't be limited to China, as its GDP represents more than 20% of the world economy.
The coronavirus outbreak is not the first time the world has experienced an infectious disease at pandemic level. The first well-documented pandemic was the Plague of Justinian that struck in the 6th Century. The plague killed 25-50 million people which was a lot given the population then.
Do not be surprised to see the government constantly coming out with economic good news such as its claims there are more factories opening than closing and more jobs being created. Or that the government is confident the bottom has been reached and a brighter economic outlook is set for next year. It is their job to create hope, while it is also my job to give readers the real economic picture. These pieces of information are accurate but, unfortunately, their stories do not go along with the real numbers. And remember, numbers never lie.
Complaints about the strong baht are growing louder by the month. Many are puzzled at why Thailand's currency keeps appreciating despite a weakening economy and falling exports. At the beginning of the year, the US dollar/baht rate was at 32.33. As of Wednesday, the baht had strengthened to 30.18 per dollar.
Originally, I planned to write an article titled "Albert Einstein and baht exchange rate". Then I said to myself, "Nope, let's not write another serious article this week". So, I decided to go for a lighter one about international rankings and ratings which the government often cites to reiterate that the Thai economy is in good shape. I never have understood why governments like to do this. Nobody cares about these figures. They care about their businesses, their jobs and their debts.
Last week I received a touching letter from one of my readers thanking me for writing informative articles. The reader also expressed concern about the future economically and wondered how to adjust to the increasingly risky situation. Therefore, I feel it should be my duty to suggest investment options, lifestyle adjustments and career choices for the upcoming economic winter.