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The almighty baht set to fall further despite rate cuts, stimulus

Jack Burton

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The almighty baht set to fall further despite rate cuts, stimulus | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Chiang Rai Times
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A lot has changed for the baht.

It was only months ago that The Bank of Thailand considered drastic measures to rein in the rambunctious baht, whose massive gains in currency markets made it the darling of speculators. In December Kasikorn Bank released a report outlining reasons the baht “will remain strong into 2020.” The bank’s research arm forecast the baht would move in a range of 30.1 – 30.5 baht to the US$ for the next few quarters at least. (As of today exchange rate is 32.83 US$ to 1 baht) They warned then that Thailand’s November export data would likely to be in negative territory, another victim of the “continuing strength of the local currency.”

Those days are gone, and the baht now looks to tumble further after the BoT cut interest rates to counter the impact of the Covid-19 coronavirus. The decisions came in a hail of announcements starting with an emergency rate cut on Friday night. The new measures are a further blow for the baht, which has already slipped over 9% this year, more than erasing last year’s gains. There’s also slowing economic growth and the worst drought in decades. And a delay in the government’s budget due to political wrangling didn’t help matters.

Friday’s move cut rates by 25 basis points to a new record low of 0.75%. It was the second reduction in as many months, coming ahead of today’s scheduled policy meeting. The policy committee has said the virus outbreak is likely to be “more severe” than previously thought and it will “take time for the situation to normalize.”

Only two weeks ago the government announced a massive stimulus package, well beyond its earlier Chim Shop Chai (Eat Shop Spend) programs, to “return growth to positive territory.” Policymakers went before the media, saying they’ll set up a mechanism to allow banks to use money market and bond funds for collateral to enhance liquidity and make funds available for companies to refinance corporate bonds.

The coronavirus has already taken its toll on Thailand’s newly-struggling currency, decimating the nation’s tourism industry, largely by reducing visitors from China, who alone accounted for some 3% of the country’s gross domestic product. Tourism revenue has slumped 43% in February from a year earlier. Furthermore exports tumbled 4.5% the same month, according to a Bloomberg report.

The BoT’s benchmark rate is now just a fraction above the level of inflation, putting Thailand on the cliff of joining the list of nations with negative real policy rates.

“The odds of a recession over the next 12 months have jumped to 30% from just 10% a year ago. Across Asia, only Japan has a higher probability”, according to Bloomberg surveys of economists.

While the number of virus cases in Thailand remains well below those in the world’s worst-affected countries, the recent spike suggests there’s potential for the situation to get a lot worse, meaning even more bad news for the baht. Yesterday there was an announcement of a state of emergency and the Cabinet’s approval of a 117 billion baht stimulus package.

SOURCE: Chiang Rai Times

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

Thailand

1.5 million Thais approaching poverty line

The Thaiger

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1.5 million Thais approaching poverty line | The Thaiger

A new report by the World Bank has indicated that 1.5 million Thais are approaching the poverty line after Covid-19 ravaged the tourism-dependent economy. In 2020, the report says the poverty ratio in Thailand increased to 8.8%, compared with 2019’s figure of 6.2%.

The report is troubling as the Thai economy already passed rock bottom in the 2nd quarter of 2020, with the the 2nd wave of Covid hitting just before the year end. Now, as many provinces have essentially went into lockdown from domestic and foreign tourism, workers are out of jobs, whereas before, domestic tourism was serving as a way to help businesses survive.

The government stimulated the economy by spending the equivalent of 13% of the gross domestic product, but the World Bank is predicting it may take 2 more years for Thailand to return its economic situation to its pre-Covid state. But the news is not all bad as the World Bank expects the Thai GDP to grow by 4% this year, instead of declining by 6.5% last year.

Such reasoning is due to the expectations of the Covid-19 vaccine being rolled out, and global economic growth. But if the Covid-19 situation becomes more severe, the expected economic growth would decline to 2.4%. Political instability in Thailand is another risk factor as months of protests have shaken views on Thailand’s government, which has invoked the lese majeste defamation law on protesters who were criticising the Royal family. Human rights organisations have issued statements that condemned the government as it began charging minors with the law.

Today, Thailand reports 309 new cases of Covid-19, with 80 being locally transmitted. Most of the cases were due to active testing and 12 were from those already in quarantine. Thailand is expected to receive 50,000 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccinesby the first week of February. The shipment is part of the first lot of 26 million doses on the agreed purchase in October of last year.

SOURCE: TNA

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Thai senior and disabled citizens will receive 2,000 baht handouts

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Thai senior and disabled citizens will receive 2,000 baht handouts | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Post Today

While the government’s economic stimulus packages continue to roll out, there is also a concern for the disabled and senior citizens who are excluded from the criteria to get benefits from the government’s major aids at this stage. The Ministry of Social Development and Human Security plans to distribute 2,000 baht handouts to that demographic of the Thai population.

According to the MSDHS Permanent Secretary, the ministry has allocated the budget to help those underprivileged groups who are excluded from the main national relief measures. However, at the initial stage, the handouts will be distributed on a case-by-case basis with the help of reports from the community development volunteers about the actual situation of each affected household.

SOURCE: NNT

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210 billion baht stimulus confirmed for “Rao Chana”

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210 billion baht stimulus confirmed for “Rao Chana” | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thairath Online

A budget of 210 billion baht of stimulus handouts to help financially-affected people from the Covid-19 outbreak, has been confirmed and ready to be distributed to 31 million people. Each applicant in the project will get 7,000 over 2 months, but not in cash. They will only get money transferred via the “Pao Tang” app once subscribing to the website “เราชนะ.com”, an app ‘e-wallet’.

Registration is scheduled for January 29 to February 12. Applicants will be screened for their annual income and how much they have in their bank accounts. Those with an annual income exceeding 300,000 baht and with savings of more than 500,000 baht as of December 31 last year will not qualify, according to Deputy PM Supattanapong Punmeechaow. People under the social security scheme, government officials, and state enterprise employees are not eligible for this campaign. Neither are foreigners.

The subsidy covers people’s food, drink, and essential items. They can also pay for public transport service providers who register in the project including motorcycle taxis, taxis, and passenger vans. The amount of money can be topped up each week if not spent, and there is no limit of how much to spend per day.

However, comments and responses are raised among the netizens who say “they prefer cash”. Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith says, “Financial relief is not being given in a form of cash. The money will be disbursed in phases to stimulate steady spending on essential goods. We want to inject cash into small businesses like the co-payment scheme.”

Also, questions have been raised for some people who can’t afford smartphones to get access to the app. Replying to this concern, he said… “The government will see what it can do to help them buy cheap phones”.

According to the Finance Minister, the government has approved several campaigns to help relieve people’s cost of living, including the “Let’s Go Halves” co-payment scheme that starts today as well as discounts on household electricity and water.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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