Thai junta bad for democracy but good for consumer confidence

Survey shows post-coup economy improving

 Thai soldiers  stand guard to prevent any rallying against the military coup at the Victory Monument in Bangkok, Thailand. Photograph: Narong Sangnak/EPA

Thai soldiers stand guard to prevent any rallying against the military coup at the Victory Monument in Bangkok, Thailand. Photograph: Narong Sangnak/EPA

Tue, Jun 10, 2014, 01:08

So, whither the Thai economy? After nearly three weeks under the military junta, how is southeast Asia’s second-largest economy faring without political leadership?

A university survey carried out after the army ousted the democratically elected government showed that consumer confidence in Thailand rose in May after falling for 13 straight months.

The army’s pledge to end political unrest and revive the flagging economy appears to have struck a chord, driving consumer confidence to its highest level since January, according to a survey by the privately-owned University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce.

In April, domestic car sales fell 33 per cent from a year earlier, while tourism, which accounts for about 10 per cent of the economy, has taken a hit, with arrivals down nearly 5 per cent in January-April from a year earlier.

Its consumer confidence index rose to 70.7 in May from 67.8 in April, which was the lowest level since November 2001. “The main factor boosting sentiment was confidence in the future due to political clarity. People were more confident that the economy would get better,” Thanavath Phonvichai, an economics professor at the university, told a news briefing.

The university said its survey had 2,251 respondents, and they were distributed around the country, with about 40 per cent in Bangkok, where the coup and the royalist opposition has most support, and 60 per cent in the provinces, which consistently elects members of the Shinawatra family and their allies, including exiled leader Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluck, who was recently kicked out of office by a constitutional committee.

People were certainly getting tired in Bangkok of anti-government protests, although they seem to have succeeded as the army pretty much did what the protesters were asking for.

Last year, Thailand’s economy expanded 2.9 per cent.

In the first quarter, however, Thai GDP shrank 2.1 per cent, raising the prospect of recession.

The junta says it is seeking to rebuild confidence and revive economic activity. It has started paying out 90 billion baht (€2 billion) in outstanding payments owed to rice farmers under a rice subsidy scheme.

The junta has also promised a state budget that will start on time on October 1st and it has outlined emergency economic measures to kickstart the domestic economy.

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