Chartchai Parasuk, PhD, is a freelance economist.
All economists, including myself, predict the spread of Covid-19 will put a big brake on economic growth through reductions in spending, particularly on travel. Assuming the virus outbreak lasts for about six months, the lower spending will likely last until the fourth quarter. Countries like Thailand, which depend heavily on foreign tourist revenue, will be hurt the most.
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.