Thailand aiming for at least 3% growth this year, more tourists

By Orathai Sriring and Kitiphong Thaichareon

BANGKOK (Reuters) -Thailand is aiming to achieve at least 3% economic growth this year and seeks to attract more foreign tourists and accelerate public and private investment, the finance minister said on Monday.

Growth in Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy has lagged regional peers as it confronts high household debt and borrowing costs alongside China’s slow recovery. Last year’s expansion was 1.9%, with average annual growth at 1.73% over the past decade.

Thailand is planning to increase the number of foreign tourists this year by a million to 36.7 million to help the economy, Pichai Chunhavajira told a news conference.

“The economy faces problems as growth is low compared with neighbouring countries’,” he said after a meeting of economic ministers. “We can’t sit still. We must do something”.

The government wants at least 70% of a 2024 investment budget disbursed by the end of the fiscal year to September, he said, adding private investment will also be accelerated.

Pichai earlier said the economy was expected to grow just 2.5% this year. His view is that it should be expanding at least 3.5% annually.

Growth was 1.5% in the first quarter year-on-year, slowing from 1.7% in the prior quarter.

Pichai said he would discuss with the central bank to ask commercial banks to help with credit access for borrowers.

He said a credit guarantee scheme worth 50 billion baht ($1.36 billion) to help smaller business obtain loans would seek cabinet approval on Tuesday.

A state-owned bank will offer soft loans worth 100 billion baht for commercial banks to lend to borrowers, Pichai added.

Pichai has said he is more worried about people’s access to credit than the level of interest rates.

The Bank of Thailand is widely expected to hold its key rate steady at a more than decade-high of 2.50% for a fourth meeting on Wednesday.

A majority of Thais are dissatisfied with Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s government as it has not been able to resolve the country’s problems, an opinion poll showed on Sunday.

($1 = 36.86 baht)

(Reporting by Orathai Sriring, Kitiphong Thaichareon and Thanadech Staporncharnchai; Editing by Martin Petty)


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