Thai PM says economic crisis will not go away quickly amid pandemic

BANGKOK, Aug 13 (Reuters) – Thailand’s prime minister said on Thursday the economic crisis will not disappear quickly amid the coronavirus pandemic as his new cabinet faces the tough task of reviving an economy expected to shrink by a record this year.

The entire world is suffering one of the worst economic challenges in modern times, and Thailand is caught up in that global storm because it is dependent heavily on exports and tourism, Prayuth Chan-ocha said in a televised address.

“We cannot escape the storm. We are a small boat in a big ocean, and our economy can only start returning to normality when the rest of the world starts returning to normality,” he said after his new cabinet members were sworn in on Wednesday.

In a cabinet shake-up, veteran banking executive Predee Daochai was picked as finance minister and Supattanapong Punmeechaow was named energy minister and deputy prime minister in charge of the finance ministry and the state planning agency.

“The economy is as big a threat to our lives as is the health threat, and which is why I have appointed non-politician, outside experts to manage the essential financial portfolios,” Prayuth said.

He said he had some guidelines for his ministers to follow, including providing short-term pain relief to the people and ensuring right programmed are rolled out.

Incentives must be provided to help people stay employed and businesses to be competitive and there must be a plan for youth employment, he said, adding all of these must be done with transparency and integrity.

Earlier on Thursday, Prayuth approved to set up an economic centre with two committees tasked with preparing economic measures and driving them.

The finance ministry has forecast the economy to contract by a record 8.5% this year, although the government has introduced stimulus measures, including a 1.9 trillion baht ($61.21 billion) package, in a bid to mitigate the outbreak impact. ($1 = 31.04 baht) (Reporting by Orathai Sriring and Panarat Thepgumpanat Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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