Business leaders raise economic growth forecast

The Kingdom’s economic growth this year could be as high as 4.8 percent, according to a new forecast last week from a joint committee representing the Federation of Thai Industries, the Board of Trade and the Thai Bankers Association, as Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak predicted that private investment would accelerate in the second half of 2018.

The Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking (JSCCIB), which consists of the three business organizations, raised its growth forecast to a range of 4.3-4.8 percent, up from its earlier prediction that growth would be in a range of 4.0-4.5 percent for 2018. The Committee also raised its estimate on export growth for the year to 7-10 percent from 5-8 percent.

If the economy grows by 4.8 percent that would be a substantial improvement over the 3.9 percent expansion of 2017. Last year’s growth was the strongest in five years. The figures provide substantial evidence that the Thai economy is in a period of steady acceleration.

The main threats to Thailand’s economic health would seem to be external, chiefly any possible fallout from various trade frictions taking place around the globe. However, JSCCIB members discounted that particular threat for the short term.

“A trade war … may have some impact on Thailand, but not much this year, as global economic growth continues to support Thai shipments,” the Committee said in a published statement.

The Thai National Shippers Council took a more circumspect view, as its forecast of 8 percent for this year remains unchanged. However, exports have already expanded by 11.5 percent during the first five months of this year after growing by 10 percent last year.

Although exports have performed beyond expectations, private investment, another crucial driver of the economy, has not been as robust as the government would like to see. Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said last week, however, that he believes that will change during the second half of this year, among both foreign and domestic investors.

“The roadshows in Britain, France, and Hong Kong … showed that foreign investors see high potential for investment in Thailand as a gateway to ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations). They are also interested in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC),” Somkid said.