You are here

Thailand cuts key rate for third time as economic crisis worsens

Policy rate cut by 25 basis points to 0.5%; pandemic has hit hard country's two key drivers - exports and tourism

BT_20200521_THAI21_4123265.jpg
The food court of Siam Paragon after the shopping mall reopened on May 17. The tourism outlook remains especially bleak with Thailand's borders mostly closed as part of a state-of-emergency order imposed in March that lasts through May.

Bangkok

THE Bank of Thailand cut its benchmark interest rate for the third time this year to a record low as the economy is expected to shrink further amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The central bank lowered the policy rate by 25 basis points to 0.5 per cent on Wednesday, by a four-to-three vote, the third cut in its last four meetings.

Of 24 analysts in a Bloomberg survey, 21 correctly predicted the decision, with the rest expecting no change.

Thailand's economy - the second-largest in Southeast Asia - contracted the most since 2011 in the first quarter. The pandemic has hit hard on the country's two key drivers, namely exports and tourism.

The state planning agency earlier this week forecast the economy would contract by as much as 6 per cent this year, the worst economic performance since the Asian financial crisis more than two decades ago.

The tourism outlook remains especially bleak with Thailand's borders mostly closed as part of a state-of-emergency order imposed in March that lasts through May. Most inbound international flights are banned until the end of June.

The monetary policy easing adds to the government's fiscal stimulus, which the World Bank estimates at 15 per cent of GDP, among the highest in the region.

That includes US$12 billion in emergency cash handouts to encourage consumer spending.

The government began easing some restrictions in early May, with shopping malls and retail businesses allowed to reopen since last weekend.

Still, the pace of recovery will likely depend on how quickly external drivers such as exports and tourism revive. BLOOMBERG

BT is now on Telegram!

For daily updates on weekdays and specially selected content for the weekend. Subscribe to t.me/BizTimes