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Top Thai business groups slash 2019 GDP forecast, urge a rate cut

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Three Thai business associations on Wednesday slashed their 2019 economic growth and export forecasts, and urged the central bank to cut interest rates to slow the strengthening of the baht, which this year has risen more than other Asian currencies.

[BANGKOK] Three Thai business associations on Wednesday slashed their 2019 economic growth and export forecasts, and urged the central bank to cut interest rates to slow the strengthening of the baht, which this year has risen more than other Asian currencies.

In a joint statement, the Federation of Thai Industries, the Thai Bankers' Association and the Board of Trade of Thailand slashed their growth estimate to 2.9 per cent-3.3 per cent from the 3.7 per cent-4.0 per cent seen in April.

They now expect exports, a key driver of growth, to rise or fall 1 per cent this year, rather than increase 3 per cent-5 per cent.

Although the new government plans to introduce stimulus measures to boost the economy in the second half, this may not offset the impact of the export slowdown at a time of softening global demand and a strong baht, Predee Daochai, president of the bankers association and the joint business groups, told reporters.

The groups are asking for government moves to contain the baht's gains and for the Bank of Thailand (BOT) to cut interest rates, industries federation president Supant Mongkolsuthree said.

"We want the government to come up with measures to take care of the baht, which is the world's strongest currency. If possible, we want the central bank to cut its policy rate," he said.

The groups will seek to discuss the baht, which has strengthened about 5.6 per cent this year, with the central bank, Mr Supant said.

BOT Governor Veerathai Santiprabhob said on Monday the central bank was not happy with "hot" money flowing in and would be ready to impose measures if inflows were unusually large. But he said there was no need to quickly adjust monetary policy.

The BOT has left its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 1.75 per cent since a hike in December. It next reviews policy on Aug 7.

Southeast Asia's second-largest economy last year expanded 4.1 per cent, the most in six years.

REUTERS