BoT warns of slump in GDP growth

Gross domestic product (GDP) growth could come in below last year’s 2.9% if the political stalemate persists throughout the year, says a senior Bank of Thailand official.

An economic recession is possible in the first half only if the situation becomes increasingly violent, said Don Nakornthab, director of economic policy.

His optimistic comment came after CIMB Thai Bank's research house warned that the country could enter a recession in the second quarter.

The central bank expects a fully functioning government in the fourth quarter and full-year economic growth below 2.9% as its worst-case scenario.

An estimated figure for GDP growth in the absence of a fully functioning government is unavailable as this scenario is impossible to forecast, Mr Don said.

As a best-case scenario, the central bank predicted economic growth of slightly below 3%, assuming there is a fully functioning government in the third quarter.

Mr Don said assessment of economic data must be made in the next three months to determine the prospects of a recession.

The central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee is expected to revise its economic forecast at its policy rate call on March 12.

Exports are projected to grow 5% this year, down from a 7% forecast earlier, he said.

Mr Don said overall economic activities in January continued to soften from the previous month due to export contraction, ebbing tourism, declining domestic consumption and subdued investments.

Merchandise export value totalled US$17.6 billion, down 1.5% year-on-year following 1.8% growth in December, because of falling exports of cars and processed agricultural products.

The Private Consumption Index declined 1.5% in January year-on-year, compared with a 0.3% contraction in the previous month, due to a drop in purchases of durable goods.

The tourism sector continued its softening trend in January on the back of the ongoing political unrest, with tourist arrivals at 2.3 million, up only 0.1% over the same month last year following 6.7% growth in December.

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