Thai economy looks steady

Bangkok, October 25:

Thailand’s post-coup government said on Wednesday that the economy could grow by up to five per cent next year under a proposed “sufficiency economy” model, which it insisted was not against free trade.

“Economic growth of four to five per cent, which is the same as this year, is achievable,” deputy prime minister and industry minister Kosit Panpiemras told AFP. Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, who was installed by military leaders who ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra last month, stunned investors by saying his new government would focus on the Thai king’s “self-sufficiency” economic model.

The sufficiency economy, however, is still a vague economic concept which aims for sustainable growth and investment levels appropriate to the country’s resources and current stage of development.

It stresses moderation and stands in sharp contrast to the gung-ho capitalist ‘Thaksinomics’ of the former self-styled CEO premier.

“The sufficiency economy does not mean our policies would be just inward looking,” Kosit said. “We are not against the free market system but are trying to avoid the bubble economy that we had before the 1997 (financial crisis).” “We will grow the economy efficiently, but with less risks,” he added.

He also said that by pledging not to change policies regarding foreign investment, a free-trade agreement with Japan could go ahead. The previous Thai government was negotiating free trade agreements with the United States and Japan, but foreign minister Nitya Pibulsonggram said earlier this month that talks were on hold until the kingdom has an elected government.

Economist Supavud Saicheua warned that foreign investors still had doubts about Thailand’s proposed sufficiency economy. “The government’s sufficiency economy is close to a self-sufficient economy. Does it mean Thailand turned its back against free trade?” said Supavud, managing director of Phatra Securities. Supavud said an ambitious 44-billion-dollar plan to improve the nation’s infrastructure — a scheme dubbed as “mega-projects” here — that was initiated under Thaksin should proceed, but should be scaled down.

“Thaksin’s government drew huge investments on mega-projects but none of them have yet to come true over the past two years,” he said.

“If the current government could proceed with the mega-projects, but scaled down and with more transparency, foreign investors would be willing to participate.”