Thai first-quarter GDP 'not good' as coronavirus hit; second quarter will be worse

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand’s economic performance in the first quarter was not good and this quarter will be worse as the Southeast Asian country faces the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the deputy prime minister said on Friday.

The key economic drivers of exports and tourism were weak as the global economy was not good, so the government needed to boost the domestic economy, Somkid Jatusripitak told a briefing.

He did not give specific forecasts. Official first-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) data will be released on May 18.

Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy may have contracted by at least 5% in the first quarter and could shrink by 3%-5% in the whole of 2020 - which would be the worst year since the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, according to business groups.

In a bid to alleviate the impact of the coronavirus, the government has introduced economic measures worth billions of dollars, including its latest 1.9 trillion baht ($58.8 billion)package approved last month.

Somkid said he would seek cabinet approval next week for rules to spend on projects aimed at lifting community activity and helping jobless workers returning to the farm sector.

Up to 10 million people may lose their jobs because of the outbreak, according to the Thai Chamber of Commerce.

The state-owned Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives will propose a 55 billion-baht fund to rebuild the rural economy and will lend 480 billion baht to community development projects, its president said on Friday.

Consumer confidence sank to a record low in April, with no sign of improvement, hit by the coronavirus outbreak, a university survey showed on Friday.

Thailand has reported a total of 3,000 infections and 55 deaths since the outbreak emerged in January. It imposed lockdowns to tackle the epidemic but started reopening some businesses on Sunday.

Writing by Orathai Sriring; Editing by Robert Birsel