As the Thai economy comes under further downward pressure from the
global recession, reports warn that the hardest hit from the downturn
are the rural and urban poor. Thai Prime
Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, has pressed his Cabinet members to go to
the provinces to hear views from local people as the government
prepares new measures to boost the economy.
Thai government reports say the Thai economy faces its toughest year since the Asian financial crisis of a decade ago.
A university study predicts the Thai economy will contract over the first and second quarters of 2009 by up to five percent.
stands in contrast to the earlier predicted forecast of up to four percent growth. Now there are warnings of unemployment reaching over one
million people. Thai economists, in a paper to the United Nations this
week, said the crisis would hit the "grassroots," low income
populations, the hardest.
The economists, from the Thailand
Development Research Institute, a private sector funded think tank,
said up to 30 percent of the population of 63 million is either poor
or vulnerable to economic shocks, with most living in provincial
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva this week
called on cabinet members to visit all 76 provincial regions to gain
'feedback' as part of the government's economic strategy.
to the central province of Lopburi, 150 kilometers from Bangkok
Saturday, Mr. Abhisit held informal talks and meeting with local
"We're talking about all the
provinces; so I hope all the ministers are doing what I'm doing," he
said. "And if we take two provinces each we should cover the whole
country - that's a good step but communications have to be continuous."
Wattanayagorn, the government spokesman, said the policy was part of a
more flexible strategy in the face of the economic recession.
days, people want to have more flexible and dynamic policies. You
cannot formulate a policy from the top," he said. "We are listening
from the ground and within the two months [so far] we have to be on the
ground collecting feedback already, and that's what people want."
Thai government has already set out an economic stimulus package to
underpin the sliding economy, with plans for two further packages in
the wings in the months ahead.
The government has already
announced a package of over $3 billion to flow into the
economy in the coming months. Panitan said further spending by the
government may be necessary.
"Economic stimulus, although quite
massive, is not compared to the massive scale of the economic trouble
in the world. That won't be enough.
This is why the government may have to come up with several new
supplemental [packages] and in order to do that you need to listen to
the people," " said the government spokesman.
Economists are also warning that, in the absence of
an effective social safety net, more people could be thrust into
poverty in the months ahead.
But economists and business
executives are hoping the Thai economy will show signs of recovery by
the last quarter of 2009 as the economic stimulus packages elsewhere in
the world start to impact the domestic economies.