Saha chief calls for weaker baht to boost export growth and economy

Economy June 04, 2014 00:00

By Kwanchai Rungfapaisarn


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Saha Group's chairman yesterday urged the Bank of Thailand to intervene in the currency market with a view to a weaker baht giving a shot in the arm to export growth.

Boonsithi Chokwatana said urgent measures to promote exports would allow money to be spread more widely at the grass-roots level, where lower-income earners would benefit the most.

In his view, the baht should depreciate to about 34 per US dollar, in order to stimulate export performance. If successful, he said, Thailand’s economic growth could reach 3 per cent this year, driven by the export sector.

"I strongly agree with the National Council for Peace and Order’s road map to stimulate the economy. This can be used as a role model for other countries facing similar political and economic difficulties," he said.

"I am not scared of the military coup if the NCPO steps forward in the right direction. I myself would like the country to have strong unity and harmony among its people. Let what has passed remain in the past. We should have no differences of colour, like red and yellow, anymore," he added.

Boonsithi agrees with the NCPO’s decision to make resolving the problem of rice farmers not having received long-overdue payments for their pledged produce one of its top economic priorities.

"After a long period of sluggishness, the economy will improve from now on. The NCPO is striving to stimulate the economy and, with many stimulus campaigns, it is expected to rebound and move forwards very rapidly. I as a trader give strong moral support [to such moves]," said Saha’s chief.

"Thailand has been in a deep abyss for a long time, and now we need to take a helicopter to fly straight up quickly," said Boonsithi. "The NCPO’s dream team appointed recently to oversee the economy is acceptable. Most of them are economic experts and they know well the trading community and the way they conduct their business."

Meanwhile, Saha Group expects its sales revenue to be flat or post only slight growth this year. The group faced a significant drop in sales in the first quarter, especially in luxury goods, such as fashion clothing.

"This year’s economic and political difficulties have significantly affected the grass roots and lower-income people. It is different from the financial crisis in 1997, when higher-income earners were hardest hit," he said.

The group will continue its investment and joint-venture operations, especially with Japanese partners, such as in restaurant, servicing and logistics businesses.

Saha Group will upgrade its machinery, particularly in its textile and raw-material factories, while also pursuing a policy of relieving the cost-of-living burden on consumers by not increasing its product prices, he added.

Boonkiet Chokwatana, president of ICC International, a manufacturing and trading subsidiary of Saha Group, said the NCPO’s road map and economic-stimulus measures would help create confidence among foreign investors.

He expects foreign investment to pick up within a month and drive a quick recovery of the overall economy.

"We posted a significant year-on-year drop in sales of 20 per cent in the first two months of this year. However, the sales decline is improving, and should be about 10 per cent over the first six months," said Boonkiet.

If the political situation remained as peaceful as currently, the economy would recover very fast, he added.

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