Panel retains 3-4.5% GDP growth forecast

Food vendors along Silom Road on Wednesday adjusted their food prices by 5-10 baht, following a surge in the price of pork and other food products. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)

The Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking (JSCCIB) has decided to maintain its GDP growth forecast at 3-4.5%, believing the government will not reimpose harsh lockdown measures and looking forward to better tourism prospects in the second quarter.

The rapid spread of the Omicron Covid-19 variant recently caused concern over a possible new economic blow, but the JSCCIB expects the ongoing outbreak to have only a short-term impact.

Its previous estimate of key economic indicators remains unchanged, with exports expanding by 3-5% and the inflation rate standing at 1.2-2%, along with moderate economic growth in 2022.

With no lockdown measures similar to those in 2020 and 2021, including travel restrictions and a nighttime curfew, business activities will keep driving on, said Sanan Angubolkul, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, a key member of the JSCCIB.

He said the JSCCIB believes Omicron infections will not severely affect the tourism industry because the government, with a two-year experience of dealing with the new coronavirus, has efficient public health and economic measures to contain the highly contagious variant.

"We do not expect to see tourism plunge into a serious trouble like it did last year, believing people can adjust themselves to the outbreak," said Mr Sanan.

"The new variant should not severely affect the health of [vaccinated] people."

The JSCCIB expects foreign arrivals to increase in the second quarter of this year. Throughout 2022, Thailand will welcome some 5-6 million tourists.

However, the group warns the government needs to expedite short-term measures to solve the surge in food prices, ranging from pork to chicken and eggs, in order to reduce living costs.

Authorities must carefully monitor the inflation rate and adopt measures to prevent its unusual increase, it said.

The JSCCIB also wants the government to speed up efforts to guillotine outdated laws, also known as GOL, to reduce unnecessary legal procedures and documents, which are viewed as a major hindrance to business activities.

So far the government has eliminated only 38% of around 100,000 laws and regulations. The process is too slow, the JSCCIB said.

Officials earlier set a target to reduce the numbers to around 1,000 laws.

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