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Thailand Economic Monitor : Living with COVID in a Digital World (Английский)

A major surge in COVID-19 cases severely slowed economic activity in Thailand during Q3 of 2021, but a recovery is now underway. The Thai economy contracted by 0.3 percent year-on-year in Q3, and seasonally adjusted output fell by 1.1 percent from Q2 following modest growth in the first half of the year. Thailand’s year-on-year contraction in Q3 was the third deepest among regional peers, after Vietnam (-6.2 percent) and Malaysia (-4.5 percent), while the Philippines and Indonesia registered strong growth.1Private consumption declined, and the consumption of durable goods was particularly weak. External demand also softened, and global supply-chain and logistics issues disrupted exports and imports of productive inputs. However, recent indicators suggest that activity rebounded in September and October, as the number of new COVID cases per day fell from a peak of over 20,000 in mid-August to an average of fewer than 8,000 by mid-November. Containment measures have been eased, and mobility now exceeds pre-pandemic levels. Meanwhile, indicators of private consumption, consumer confidence, and business sentiment have all ticked upward. Progress on vaccinations has accelerated since August, and the government is now on track to achieve its target of vaccinating 70 percent of the population by the end of the year. The economy is expected to grow by 1.0 percent in 2021, unchanged from our previous projection published in October. This forecast reflects the persistent weakness in private consumption due to COVID-19 and the expectation that tourist arrivals will remain negligible through to the end of 2021 despite the recent reopening of international borders. On the other hand, goods exports have supported growth amid resurgent global demand, and investment is expected to increase rapidly. Cash transfers, public health initiatives, economic recovery programs, and other forms of fiscal support have helped shore up private demand while supporting consumption among vulnerable households and attenuating the impact of the crisis on poverty. The current account remained firmly in deficit through the first three quarters of 2021. The goods trade balance continued to show a large surplus of 7.0 percent of GDP in Q3, but the services trade deficit widened from 3.1 percent of GDP in 2020 to 7.2 percent of GDP in the first half of 2021, largely reflecting the collapse of tourism receipts and rising freight costs. The combination of a widening current-account deficit and net outflows on the capital and financial accounts has caused the nominal and real effective exchange rates to depreciate since the end of 2020. However, improved investor confidence has spurred a modest appreciation since the end of September 2021. While international reserves have declined since the beginning of the year, they remain ample at around 10 months of imports and four times the level of short-term external debt.

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