Thai business group cuts GDP outlook on new outbreak


    BANGKOK- Thailand’s joint business group on Wednesday lowered its growth forecast to 1.5-3.5 percent this year, from 2.0-4.0 percent projected last month, saying the country’s new coronavirus outbreak, its most severe yet, will hamper an economic recovery.

    The downgrade is based on an assumption that the new epidemic is controlled within three months and the government accelerates some 200 billion baht ($6.7 billion) of support measures, Kalin Sarasin, chairman of the joint business group on commerce, industry and banking, told a briefing.

    “Over the next two to three months, the outbreak will impact consumer confidence, tourism and investment,” Kalin said.

    A new cluster of cases in December linked to migrant workers and a gambling den has led to infections in over half of Thailand’s provinces.

    The central bank also warned of risks from the outbreak impact while analysts say new virus restrictions could detail the country’s nascent recovery.

    While the impact on employment remains unclear, many workers could lose their jobs, Supant Mongkolsuthree, chairman of The Federation of Thai Industries, told the briefing.

    The group also cut its export growth outlook to 3-5 percent from 4-6 percent due to a slow global economic recovery, a container shortage and a persistently strong baht, which has gained 10.8 percent since April last year.

    “Exports may not grow in the first quarter,” Supant said, adding shipments should improve later when vaccines were available and global consumption increased.

    For 2020, the group forecast the economy contracted 6-7 percent, the deepest fall in over 20 years. Official fourth-quarter and 2020 gross domestic product data will be released next month.