Christmas trees are put up in front of the CentralWorld shopping mall on Nov 9 ahead of the Christmas New Year’s celebrations. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

After two decades of being hamstrung by several problems, the Thai economy will take off next year, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak declared on Thursday.

“2018 will be a very important year for us. Several conditions are ripe as the economy has steadily improved,” he said at a talk on “Thailand’s opportunities in 2018” in Bangkok on Thursday.

“The crucial period is the first quarter. Let’s not allow anything to derail the momentum so the economy can grow more strongly after opportunities dried up over the past 20 years due to several incidents,” he said.

“Let’s not allow anything to derail the momentum,” syas Mr Somkid. (Photo by Seksan Rojjanametakun)

The economy is stronger — with growth of 0.9% in 2014 to at least 3.8% forecast by the Finance Ministry this year.

International pressures have eased — from the  International Civil Aviation Organization’s removal of red flag for Thailand’s aviation industry and the upgrade to Watch List from Special Watch List by the United States Trade Representative to the re-engagement of the EU even though the free trade agreement can’t be signed until after the general election, he continued.

“From now on, we’ll go to EU countries for strategic partnerships, with a bilateral focus,” Mr Somkida said.

Geopolitically, Southeast Asia is very important. “All countries, including China, South Korea and Japan, are heading to the region and Thailand is a focal political and economic connectivity point.

He cited as examples China’s One Belt One Road, The West’s Indo-Pacific to balance China’s soft power and Japan’s feasibility study on the East-West Corridor from Vietnam to India.

The stock market will be more active next year thanks to improvements of the world economy and Asian economies.

“This is a golden opportunity for Thai corporations to raise capital after several years of hiatus due to a lack of opportunities.

“Companies which are able to list next year should consider themselves extremely lucky unless an unforeseen situation happens,” he said.

As this government has less than a year, it has to prioritise.

“What I’d like to do is to solve problems plaguing the poor through state lenders — those designated as development banks, not for-profit ones.

“To do that, we need to look at the farm sector, now hit by low prices. The government must shore up farm prices. For instance, if rubber prices are persistently low, we’ll put it in a price-control basket but it’s not like we’re trying to defy market mechanism.”

He added the government has launched incentives to reduce plantations such as subsidies for felling existing trees and grow substitute plants. The fertile soil in the south makes it suitable for other crops such as durian, which is in high demand in China.

Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong said the ministry would send the second phase of the poverty-reduction project for cabinet approval this month or next.

“The major measures in this phase are to find jobs and train them to improve their skills. Officials, whom we call “poverty doctors” will go meet the target group — some 5 million still below the poverty line or those earning less than 30,000 baht a year.

“We hope to reduce problems plaguing the poor by 20-30% but it’s impossible to get everyone out of poverty,” Mr Apisak said.

 

News Reporter

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