The comments come as there are tentative signs that Thailand’s predicted economic contraction for 2020 will not be as severe as expected while the Ministry of Commerce has just revealed a slightly more optimistic export outlook for September with Thailand still managing to notch up a very healthy trade surplus for the first nine months of the year to date.
Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister with responsibility for the economy, Supattanapong Punmeechaow, has warned protesters that they risk impeding economic recovery which is underway and efforts to protect the health of the Thai public by prioritising constitutional change at a time when the kingdom is already in crisis. He said the former goals were the duty and top priority of the current government.
Thailand’s Energy Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Supattanapong Punmeechaow, who has responsibility for coordinating the economy has chided pro-democracy protesters for having the wrong priorities at this critical time in Thailand’s history.
Mr Supattanapong’s comments come as there is more economic data emerging to show that the Thai economy may be pulling out of a massive downward spiral driven by the Covid 19 emergency and even before that, declining exports caused by US-driven disruptions to world trade.
Progress in mending Thailand’s economy
The Deputy PM’s comments came during a meeting on Thursday when he made his views known to the media.
He warned that now is not the appropriate time to be pushing for constitutional reform and more democracy in the political system.
The minister, installed in his new role in the summer cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha, disclosed that the International Monetary Fund had just recalibrated its growth projection for Thailand and adjusted the level of anticipated contraction for the Thai economy downwards from 7.7% to 7.1%.
He also referred to efforts that are ongoing through the Bank of Thailand to restructure debts arrangements for Thai firms struggling to cope with the unprecedented shock to the system experienced by the Thailand in the six months from the end of March this year including a near shutdown of large swathes of the economy with foreign tourism still effectively closed off.
Mr Supattanapong expressed satisfaction that 94% of borrower’s debt had been able to be renegotiated on more favourable terms.
Now is not the time for the young generation to push for constitutional reform says the Deputy PM
The minister deplored the fact that the younger generation on the streets was putting Thailand’s prospects of recovery in jeopardy by their actions and even more seriously, running the real risk of generating heightened political instability.
It occurred to him that the priorities for Thailand, right now, must be economic recovery and making sure that the health of the Thai public was being protected.
‘For them, amendments to the Constitution take precedence, but for us, we are looking for an economic recovery plan, preventing a second wave of Covid-19 infections and maintaining political stability. We all have the duty to maintain stability so we can safely pull out of this crisis,’ the Deputy Prime Minister warned.
Export contraction for September was lower than expected with a strong trade surplus
Over at the Ministry of Commerce in Nonthaburi, at the same time, there was also a more positive picture.
Pimchanok Vonkorpon presented the exports and imports top-line data for September and while Thailand’s exports declined by 3.56%, the drop compared to this time last year was represented by $19.6 billion or ฿614 billion in exports.
This was a better performance than the 4.08% drop predicted by analysts including Reuters.
Significantly, she revealed that Thailand’s imports for the month fell by 9.08% resulting in a significant $2.23 billion trade surplus.
This is a consistent pattern for 2020 which has seen the kingdom notch up a healthy trade surplus of $20.6 billion or ฿649 billion.
‘In the first nine months of 2020, total exports are at $172.9 billion, decreasing 7.33% year on year, while total imports are at $152.2 billion, decreasing 14.64%,’ Ms Pimchanok stated. ‘Thailand, therefore, has a trade surplus of $20.6 billion so far this year.’
Thailand’s agriculture and food exports are selling well in Asia, the export decline for 2020 is less severe
The ministry official attributed the better than expected set of figures to agriculture exports and processed foods which are in big demand on Thailand’s Asian markets. She also noted that Thailand had fared well with its exports of rubber gloves and supplies for the medical sector.
She said that Asia appeared to be recovering at a faster pace than either Europe or the United States at this time and that this dynamic, combined with a focus by Thai exporters on markets nearer to home, may see the exports contraction come in at between 6% and 7% this year.
This compares well to fears expressed by shippers and those in the private sector at the height of the contraction, months ago, that this figure could well have been twice this.
Protests may hinder inward investment
The Director-General of the Trade Policy and Strategy Office told reporters that the threatened crisis caused by the resurgence of street protest should not, in the short term, impact on the kingdoms’ export drive and efforts to restore export performance this year as the demand for products and services from Thailand was offshore.
However, there was every danger that if the situation escalates or continues, it could negatively impact potential investors currently looking at Thailand as a manufacturing centre or base for export activity as the picture was one of political instability.