This week the baht hit its lowest point in half a year, falling 4% against the US dollar to 31.24. The decline was the sharpest in all of the Southeast Asian nations. The Indonesian rupiah fell 3.4% and the Malaysian ringgit fell 3.1%, while the Philippine peso and Singapore dollar dropped 1% and the Vietnamese dong basically held steady. Kyats, the Burmese currency did plummet further, 5.6%, following the military coup in Myanmar on February 1, but it’s not considered a common currency.
Thailand’s depreciation is heavily due to the economic downturn as a result of the pandemic which has all but killed Thailand’s tourist-heavy economy. With borders closed, the drop in foreign tourism pumping money into the economy has left a glaring hole. Before Covid-19, in the third quarter of 2019, Thailand held a surplus of US$11.5 billion baht. By the third quarter of 2020, the surplus had fallen to $6.6 billion, and by the end of the year, it had slid to a deficit of $1.4 billion.
Thailand had been bolstered by the surplus and by the constant influx of tourist spending supporting the economy. Tourism money fell to $742 million due to the pandemic border closure, just 5% of the equivalent period last year. The government is hoping to restart the tourism economy and pump more Thai baht into the country with a variety of actions to shorten quarantine, reopen key tourist locations like Phuket, and eventually allow in vaccinated travellers without any quarantine.
Many are still unsure of Thailand’s stability, with investors, importers and exporters still having doubts. The Finance Minister believes there’s no need to panic, as he was expecting a backlash when the Thai baht hit a 7 year high. They have acted by increasing investment limits to US$5 million for Thais to buy foreign securities, up from US$200,000 and loosened restrictions on foreign currency deposits.
SOURCE: Nikkei Asia
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