Thailand downgrades 2021 outlook as Covid-19 hampers recovery

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Bangkok, Aug 16 :Thailand downgraded its economic growth forecast for 2021 on Monday as it battles its worst Covid-19 wave, which has brought record numbers of new infections and deaths.

The kingdom last year suffered its worst full-year performance since the Asian financial crisis of 1997 with a 6.1 percent economic contraction.

The Office of the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC) had initially given a cool forecast for recovery during the first quarter, estimating growth of 1.5 to 2.5 percent for 2021.

But on Monday, NESDC secretary general Danucha Pichayanan announced it had to revise that figure down to between 0.7 and 1.2 percent.

 “This crisis caused by the pandemic is unlike the financial crises of 1997 and 2009 — our estimation is based on domestic causes,” he said during a press conference.

 He added that the new forecast was dependent on the hope that the pandemic’s curve will flatten after the third quarter, enabling a relaxation of restrictions by October.

 “But if the pandemic continues and relaxation cannot start in the fourth quarter… the growth could be lower than 0.7 percent,” Danucha said.

 Thailand’s GDP for the second quarter was up 7.5 percent on the same period last year, the first sign of recovery since the pandemic.

 The growth was most visible in agricultural, industrial and exports sectors, while tourism — once Thailand’s cash cow — remained sluggish.

The kingdom has gradually re-opened borders to vaccinated travellers via a quarantine-free programme in ultra-popular beach island Phuket — drawing more than 34,700 tourists to its sun-soaked shores since the so-called “sandbox” launched on July 1.

But Covid-19 cases there have started to climb.