A TOP government think tank has raised its forecast for economic growth to as much as much as 4.7 per cent for this year after the report card for the first quarter came within a whisker of that mark.
The National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) said it now expects 2018 expansion in the range of 4.2 to 4.7 per cent - up from an earlier projection of 3.6 to 4.6 per cent - after the economy grew at the fastest pace in 20 years for the three months of the year.
NESDB deputy secretary-general Wichayayuth Boonchit said gross domestic product (GDP) rose 4.8 per cent year on year for the quarter, driven by an acceleration in spending by the public and private sectors.
Thailand had suffered GDP contraction of 0.4 per cent in the first quarter of 2014, the worst performance for a quarter for the preceding five years.
For opening quarter of 2018, total investment edged up 3.4 per cent from the year-earlier period. Public investment increased 4 per cent.
Exports expanded 9.9 per cent, while tourism-based income jumped 16.8 per cent.
With the NESDB’s revised GDP growth forecast of 4.2 to 4.7 per cent, the median estimate is 4.5 per cent.
The health of the global economy and robust product prices have been cited as factors behind the strong growth performance.
The trend of rising exports is expected to firm up and the nation’s stronger economic base is likely to spur industrial expansion – aided by expenditure flows from the government.
The NESDB expects exports to grow 8.9 per cent for 2018, with public spending likely to rise 3 per cent and private investment in the order of 3.9 per cent. Private consumption is estimated to increase 3.7 per cent. Average headline inflation is projected in a range of 0.7 to 1.7 per cent.
Thailand’s current account is forecast to enjoy a surplus that amounts to 8.4 per cent of the nation’s GDP.
However, risks to growth loom in the form of increased prices for certain products and crude oil, along with expected rises in interest rates, amid global economic and financial uncertainties
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said he drew encouragement from the 4.8 per cent GDP marking the fastest growth in five years.
Broad indicators rising
The government had spent most of the past five years driving forward the economy, he said.
All economic indicators, including private investment, exports and tourism receipts, had improved, he said, adding the prolonged pressures in the agricultural sector had eased.
Somkid said that the strong GDP expansion was likely to raise the confidence of the private sector, increasing the prospects of greater corporate income.
If the scale of investment through public-private partnership (PPP) plans proceeds as planned, businesses in a range of activities will be boosted, with infrastructure and property projects to follow, he said.
Meanwhile, a meeting of the PPP committee chaired by Somkid, yesterday resolved to accelerate the pipeline of such projects. Three big projects are expected this year with investment of about Bt446.87 billion, according to Prapas Kong-Ied, director-general of State Enterprise Policy Office.
They are the Bt80.6-billion Nakhon Pathom-Cha-am intercity motorway, the Bt128.23 billion Tao Poon-Kanchanaphisek Ring Road mass rapid transit system, and the Purple Line’s Bt238.04-billion eastern and western section MRT project.
The Siam Commercial Bank Economic Intelligence Centre forecasts the economy will grow more than 4 per cent this year, citing the 4.8 per cent expansion achieved for the first quarter.
The centre’s confidence is based on encouraging signs across all sectors of the economy, as well as a reduction in household debt. These factors will boost consumer spending throughout the rest of the year, it said.
The Bank of Thailand’s senior director for the economy and policy department, Don Nakornthab, said yesterday that the economic expansion for the year’s first three months had exceeded the central bank’s expectations.
Don also highlighted the contributions from investment by the private and state sectors, as well as increased domestic consumption. He said the Bank of Thailand would announce next month a fresh estimate of economic expansion for 2018.
However, Don cautioned that the economy faced a range of risks – both internal and external. The latter included uncertainties over global trade policies and rising oil prices. On the home front is the issue of how well domestic consumption will hold up.