B100bn in virus relief on the way

B100bn in virus relief on the way

Stimulus including soft loans, cash handouts and tax benefits intended to ease impact

Vendors wait for customers at Platinum Pratunam mall in Bangkok on Feb 28. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)
Vendors wait for customers at Platinum Pratunam mall in Bangkok on Feb 28. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)

The government has outlined a stimulus package, estimated to be worth more than 100 billion baht, to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on activity in an already weak economy.

The economy is growing at its weakest pace in years due to soft exports and investment. But the Covid-19 outbreak threatens to devastate tourism, which was one of the few bright spots.

The package, approved by the economic cabinet, includes cash handouts, soft loans and other financial assistance, and tax benefits, Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana told reporters after a meeting of economic ministers.

“It’s a temporary, broad-based package to help various groups,” he said.

The value of the package was not given, but Mr Uttama earlier said it would be worth more than 100 billion baht, and that it would go to the cabinet on Tuesday.

Financial support for businesses includes soft loans at 2% interest rates, a debt moratorium and delayed debt repayments, lower utility expenses and other costs, Mr Uttama said.

The government will also give 2,000 baht each to low-income earners, farmers and independent workers, he said.

It will offer higher tax benefits on some long-term fund investments to support the stock market.

Measures to help airlines will be considered later, said Kobsak Pootrakool, secretary to the economic cabinet.

He said first-quarter economic performance would not be good, given that the outbreak has slashed foreign tourist numbers by about 50% so far.

The economy grew by just 2.4% last year, the weakest in five years. Growth this year is likely to be much lower, with Kasikorn Research Center predicting GDP expansion of just 0.5%, the lowest since 2009.

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