July 13, 2020 / 7:11 AM / 24 days ago

Thailand plans $3.2 bln soft loans to help tourism, services

BANGKOK, July 13 (Reuters) - Thailand plans 100 billion baht ($3.2 billion) of new soft loans to help small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the tourist and services sector hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the finance minister said on Monday.

The loans will offer more relaxed conditions than the central bank’s 500-billion baht soft loan scheme, Uttama Savanayana told reporters.

“These will reduce operators’ costs and give them liquidity to keep jobs. It should be released soon,” he said.

The loans, to be provided by the Government Savings Bank, will follow various relief measures for SMEs which the finance minister has said employs 80% of the total workforce.

Although Thailand has recorded no domestic transmissions for more than one month, the global impacts of the pandemic have hit the economy badly, especially tourism, with a border closure keeping visitors out and weaker demand for international air travel set to slow its recovery.

Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy is forecast to contract by a record 8.1% this year, with foreign tourist numbers tumbling by 80%, according to the central bank.

Separately, some 20 billion baht of soft loans will be offered to retail vendors affected by the outbreak, Uttama said. ($1 = 31.27 baht) (Reporting by Kitphong Thaichareon Writing by Orathai Sriring; Editing by Martin Petty)

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