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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Inflation hits 7-month high; Construction companies adjust; Rice funds still lacking

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

February inflation hits 7-month high
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is likely to grow continuously in the following months because of the higher cost of raw materials and fresh foods amid rising concern over drought.

The Commerce Ministry reported yesterday that February inflation had edged up to the highest figure in seven months at 1.96 per cent year on year, mainly from rising food prices.

“The drought problem has created more concern over a rise in the prices of some foods, mainly fresh fruits and vegetables, rice and meat. Some goods prices may also increase as the weakening baht drives up the cost of some raw materials,” said Srirat Rastapana, permanent secretary of the ministry.

Inflation in February was up slightly, by 0.23 per cent, from the January figure. Combined inflation in the first two months was up 1.95 per cent year on year.

Last month, among the 450 goods and service in the ministry’s inflation basket, the prices of 199 items increased, while 75 items decreased in price and 176 were unchanged.

Prices in the food and beverage sector were up by 4.26 per cent on average compared with January’s figure, while those outside that sector increased only slightly, by 0.77 per cent, amid a slight drop in fuel prices.

Despite the rising trend of the CPI, the ministry is confident that annualised inflation will be within this year’s target of 2-2.8 per cent, in accordance with slowing economic growth, which is projected at 3-5 per cent.

Srirat said prices were expected to grow continuously in the remaining months, but should not be too high given the slowing economy, while the government had maintained its price-control policies.

The cap on the retail price of diesel fuel is due to expire next month, but she expects that the government will continue to subsidy the price. Otherwise, a higher pump price for diesel could increase inflation by 0.5-1 percentage point this year.

The Commerce Ministry also notes that an increase in the prices of tickets for Bangkok’s MRT subway system, scheduled for July, will mark up inflation by 0.002 percentage point this year.

Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and fuel prices, firmed up slightly to 1.22 per cent year on year and 0.27 per cent month on month. Core inflation in the first two months was 1.13 per cent year on year, well within the Bank of Thailand’s target range of 0.5-3 per cent.

Struggle for rice funds continues
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The Finance Ministry continues making a strong effort to raise funds to pay farmers in arrears under the rice-pledging programme through the issuance of Bt20 billion worth of saving bonds despite the remaining doubts over their legality.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Ministry has accelerated sales of rice from the government’s stockpile to as much as 800,000 tonnes a month, hoping to earn Bt80 billion in nine months.

In the short term, there are only a few choices left for the government to obtain money either from the Farmers’ Assistance Funds announced last week or from the sale of rice to pay the farmers.

The Finance Ministry has failed twice to raise the needed money via short-term loans. First it held an auction for a bridge-financing loan of Bt20 billion from financial institutions. Then it called for bids for Bt20 billion in promissory notes for general investors. No one participated in either auction.

The main reason for the lack of bidders was the lack of assurance that a caretaker authority can legally raise funds via bond issuance. Another reason was that many state enterprises were reluctant to take part because of strong opposition from their employees.

“One of many ways to seek funds that the authorities are discussing is issuance of bonds. So far, there has been no conclusion on whether the Finance Ministry will guarantee the bonds. However, this is expected to be finalised in the next few weeks,” Luck Wajananawat, president of the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC), said yesterday.

He said the bonds should be guaranteed by the ministry, but “if the bonds are to be guaranteed by the BAAC instead, the matter will be discussed by the bank’s board first, considering the legal issues and risks”.

The Commerce Ministry is expected to release about 800,000 tonnes of rice a month from the government’s stockpiles this year. It also expects China to sign another government-to-government contract with Thailand for rice purchase, while many other countries will order more from the Thai private sector.

Srirat Rastapana, permanent secretary of the Commerce Ministry, said a Chinese government agency had shown high interest in signing a G2G rice contract with Thailand soon.

According to a ministry source, China will this week sign a contract for purchase of about a million tonnes of rice. The contract will be signed by Chinese state-owned enterprise COFCO and the Thai Foreign Trade Department.

Previously, Thailand had to cancel a similar G2G contract with China, after that deal was suspected of being falsified and was investigated by the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

Srirat said Thailand should also be able to export more rice in the following months as many countries had placed orders with private exporters. Given the upcoming drought season, the government should be able to release more rice from the stockpiles, as many private traders needed it to supply foreign buyers, she said.

Meanwhile, the ministry has ordered the Thai Trade Representative in Indonesia to hold talks with that country’s Trade Ministry on reported dumping allegations against Thailand on the rice price.

New govt needed by July: economists
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The country’s economic outlook remains challenging if a new government cannot be formed by midyear and the export sector does not recover, some economists say.

Kasikorn Research Centre says that even though businesses can resume operating as usual now that the anti-government movement has ended its campaign to paralyse Bangkok and returned the streets to the city’s residents, Thai gross domestic product could shrink by 2 per cent this year if a government is not in place by the second half.

The research house has maintained its estimate for GDP growth of 3 per cent as it wants to wait to see how the political situation develops over the next two months, including the expected ruling by the National Anti-Corruption Commission on caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s handling of the rice-pledging scheme.

Pimonwan Mahujchariya-wong, deputy managing director of KResearch, said that if Parliament cannot be opened to discuss the fiscal budget by midyear, the economy in the second half would witness more trouble.

GDP in the first half could expand by 0.3-1.2 per cent year on year despite lower consumption, because exports will be a trigger of economic growth in the second quarter. But if exports are not able to resume healthy growth, there could be a recession, she said.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Monks gather for a special ceremony in Pattaya to pray Covid-19 away

Tanutam Thawan

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Hands placed together in the “wai” position and seated in chairs placed a safe “social distance” apart, monks in Pattaya gathered together at a local temple for a special ceremony to pray Covid-19 away.

The Wat Chai by the Pattaya Walking Street was given special permission to hold the event where dozens of monks from other temples in the area came together to pray. To prevent the spread of Covid-19 at the ritual, monks wore face masks, practised social distancing, used hand sanitiser and had their body temperature checked.

The monks chanted several mantras and performed rituals that they believe will help slow the spread of Covid-19 in Chon Buri and help the local economy recover.

SOURCE: Pattaya News

 

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Bangkok

Protest leader tests positive for Covid-19 a week after being released from jail

Tanutam Thawan

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Photo via Facebook/ Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul

A pro-democracy movement leader has tested positive for Covid-19 after she spent 8 weeks in jail awaiting a trial on lese majeste charges which prohibit statements that insult or defame the Thai Monarchy. 2 other protest leaders facing similar charges have tested positive for Covid-19 while in court detention.

After being released from the Central Women’s Correctional Institution on May 6, Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul spent most of her time at home. She went to a drive-through Covid-19 testing venue on May 10. She went by the Bangkok Remand Prison the next day for the release of 2 other protest leaders, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Chai-amorn Kaewwiboonpan. Rung has now been admitted to the Thammasat University Hospital in Pathum Thani for treatment.

Rung says had been denied an earlier Covid-19 test because she did not have some of the symptoms of the virus.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Covid UPDATE: 1,983 new infections and 34 deaths, provincial totals

Tanutam Thawan

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Photo via Facebook/ อนุทิน ชาญวีรกูล (Public Health Minister)

The daily Covid-19 death toll hit a record high today with 34 deaths reported. 1,983 new Covid-19 infections were reported today in the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration’s daily briefing. Since the start of the pandemic last year, the CCSA has reported 88,907 Covid-19 infections and 486 coronavirus-related deaths.

There are now 29,378 active Covid-19 cases in Thailand. Active cases peaked at just over 30,000 infections last week and have been on a very slight downward slope. The number of patients with severe symptoms has slightly increased to 1,200 with 401 of them on ventilators.

Around 75% of the new Covid-19 infections are in Bangkok and surrounding provinces. While the infection rate remains high in the capital, several provinces have reported no Covid-19 infections and many provinces report under 10 infections.

Most of the new Covid-related fatalities reported today are patients with underlying conditions of high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes. 12 of the 34 patients who died had contracted Covid-19 from family members, a trend in the deaths of patients. The elderly and those with chronic illnesses are at the highest risk of a severe Covid-19 infection.

A CCSA spokesperson notes that migrant workers are entitled to treatment under social welfare programs regardless of their legal status in Thailand.

“Legal or not, they will be treated. Legal status is not an issue at all. The priority is to get them treated and recovered as soon as possible.”

To combat the spread of Covid-19 in Bangkok, the CCSA is expediting the Covid-19 vaccination campaign in high-risk areas like Bangkok’s Khlong Toey slum. Since the nationwide vaccination campaign was launched in late February, 1.89 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered. Only 530,000 people have received both doses of the vaccine.

Provinces with the highest number of new Covid-19 cases…

Province New cases Total since April 1
Bangkok 976 21,405
Nonthaburi 266 4,035
Samut Prakan 110 3,420
Chon Buri 57 3,489
Surat Thani 53 1,256
Ayutthaya 38 743
Samut Sakhon 36 1,627
Chanthaburi 32 562
Pathum Thani 29 1,477
Pattani 28 240
Covid UPDATE: 1,983 new infections and 34 deaths, provincial totals | News by Thaiger

Daily Covid-related deaths in Thailand as of 11 May 2021, according to Worldometers.

Covid UPDATE: 1,983 new infections and 34 deaths, provincial totals | News by Thaiger

Active Covid-19 cases in Thailand as of 11 May 2021, according to Worldometers.

Covid UPDATE: 1,983 new infections and 34 deaths, provincial totals | News by ThaigerCovid UPDATE: 1,983 new infections and 34 deaths, provincial totals | News by ThaigerCovid UPDATE: 1,983 new infections and 34 deaths, provincial totals | News by ThaigerCovid UPDATE: 1,983 new infections and 34 deaths, provincial totals | News by ThaigerCovid UPDATE: 1,983 new infections and 34 deaths, provincial totals | News by ThaigerCovid UPDATE: 1,983 new infections and 34 deaths, provincial totals | News by Thaiger

 

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