Thailand mulls economic rehab center

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    BANGKOK- Thailand plans to set up a center to help revitalize an economy hit by the coronavirus outbreak and is considering more relief measures for small businesses, government officials said on Friday.

    A rehabilitation centre will work similar to the government’s health-focused COVID-19 administration, but its task will be addressing economic issues, said Kobsak Pootrakool, deputy secretary-general of the Prime Minister’s Office.

    “From now on, it must be a balance between disease issues and the mouth and stomach of the people,” he told reporters.

    The government plans to extend debt moratoria for small-and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) from October as the pandemic is likely to continue for a while, he said after meeting the prime minister, economic agencies and the private sector.

    Although Thailand has had relatively few cases and no domestic transmissions for more than one month, the global impacts of the pandemic have hit the economy badly.

    The central bank predicts the economy will shrink by a record 8.1% this year.

    A planned 50 billion baht ($1.6 billion) fund to aid SMEs will be considered by the state planning agency, which is supervising some spending under the government’s 1 trillion baht of borrowing to help recovery from the pandemic.

    Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana said he had asked to increase credit guarantees to help more than 40,000 small firms borrow 45 billion baht from banks.

    “The most urgent issue for SMEs is liquidity because it directly affects jobs,” he said, adding SMEs employed 80% of the total workforce.

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