Weekly Economic & Commercial News & Report – from 3rd March- 9th March 2018

Weekly Economic & Commercial News & Report – from 3rd March- 9th March 2018

Tha Din Daeng Photo Walk #64

Thailand s economy grows well
Bangkok Today 03.03.18

Pornchai Thirawet, Financial Advisor of the Fiscal Policy Office, said that the Thai economy continued to grow in January; exports improved for 11 consecutive months, with a total value of $20 billion, representing 17.6% growth — the highest growth in 62 months. Exported products that grew well included automobiles and parts, electronics, agricultural goods and chemical products. Thailand’s exports to ASEAN (the five original members), Japan, India, ASEAN (CLMV), China and the US improved. Pornchai forecasts that exports may grow by 6.6% this year. The number of tourists visiting Thailand in January rose by 10.9% mainly coming from China, Russia, South Korea, Laos, India, and eastern Europe, etc. The Agricultural Production Index grew by 13% (annual figure) and the inflation rate stood at 0.7%. Thailand’s unemployment rate was 1.3% while the public debt-to-GDP ratio was 41.2%. Its foreign currency reserves were $214.7 billion.

Mobile players race ahead with 5G plans

The Nation 03.03.18
Techonology companies are losing no time after the world’s biggest smartphone trade show to ensure their plans to seize on fifth generation (5G) telecommunications opportunities are realised over the coming months. The 2018 edition of the Mobile World Congress ended on March 1, drawing a record number of more than 107,000 visitors from 205 countries and territories. More than 2,400 firms showcased cutting-edge products and services across 120,000 net square metres of exhibition and hospitality space at Fira Gran Via in Barcelona, compared with more than 2,300 last year, according to Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA), the global body of telecommunications groups.

EGCO gears up for Bt12 bn investment spree

The Nation 06.03.18
Electricity Generating Plc (EGCO) has set aside an investment budget of more than Bt12 billion for this year with the aim of generating a return on the investment of at least 10 per cent, the company’s president Jakgrich Pibulpairoj said yesterday. Jakgrich said the funds would be put towards three overseas power projects in the pipeline: the Xayaburi and Nam Theun 1 projects in Laos and the San Buenaventura facility in the Philippines. The plants are scheduled to start commercial operations in 2019 and 2022. The company said that, for the following investment budget, it would set aside funds for a further three power projects that are under development. These are the Pak Beng hydropower project in Laos, the expansion of the Star Energy (Unit 3-4) geothermal project in Indonesia, and the Quang Tri coal-fired plant in Vietnam, Jakgrich said at a press conference. The company holds a 30 per cent stake in the Pak Beng project, which requires an investment budget of up to US$3.5 billion. The company also holds 30 per cent of the Quang Tri plant, which needs investment for the whole project of about US$2.5 billion. The company holds a 20 per cent stake in Star Energy (Unit 3-4), which requires investment of US$280 million.

Foreign websites to come under VAT net

The Nation 07.03.18
The Finance Ministry will soon impose a 7 per cent value-added tax (VAT) on foreign e-commerce transactions in an effort to ensure fair competition between international and local businesses, said the director general of the Revenue Department, Prasong Poonthanet. The department also signalled that it would order a block on the websites of any of the global e-commerce giants that failed to pay the tax.  In other financial measures announced yesterday, the Cabinet approved tax credits for companies that hire holders of the state welfare cards. The tax credits would be applied at up to 1.5 times the expenses of such companies. The government stands to forego tax revenue of as much as Bt3 billion a year as a result of this initiative to help the poor. Prasong yesterday said the department would this month submit a tax bill covering e-commerce to Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong for endorsement, before it goes to the Cabinet for approval. If the draft law is approved, it will be forwarded to the National Legislative Assembly for debate.

Boost to west coast tourism

The Nation 07.03.18

The Cabinet has approved a high-end tourism project “Thailand Riviera” at its mobile meeting in Phetchaburi province yesterday, aiming to boost tourism in the coastal western provinces.

Somkid Jatusripitak, deputy prime minister, said the Cabinet agreed on the plan for tourism development in the west coast to boost community economic development and upgrade tourism to the global stage. “Thailand Riviera” will cover the west coast from Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chumphon to Ranong province. The Tourism Authority of Thailand will set aside part of its budget for the high-end project which will be forwarded to National Tourism Policy Committee on March 12. As a means to support the project, the Ministry of Transport will soon complete bidding document for the high-speed train project, Bangkok-Hua Hin, which will be forwarded to the Cabinet for approval. Once the high-speed train project is materialised, real estate development will follow, leading to urban and community developments.

Private sector fears procurement act hampering investment 
Bangkok Post 07.03.18
The private sector has expressed concerns that the new, stricter Government Procurement and Supplies Management Act of 2017 may hamper public investment this year. Chen Namchaisiri, chairman of the Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking (JSCCIB), said the business sector is afraid that public investment may not grow as forecast after contracting 6% year-on-year in the first quarter of fiscal 2018 (October-December 2017). “The government’s investment budget can’t boost the domestic economy as hoped because of the new, stricter Government Procurement and Supplies Management Act, which has led many provincial governors to baulk at signing any contracts,” Mr Chen said.
BOI stage to attract investors
Naew Na 08.03.18
Duangjai Asawachintachit, Secretary General, Office of the Board of Investment (BOI), revealed that the BOI will hold the ‘Thailand Taking off to New Heights’ seminar on 19 th March 2018 and a number of Thai and foreign investors have accepted invitations to the event. 14 foreign BOI offices will bring over 300 investors and members of the press to attend the seminar and toexplore investment opportunities for the Eastern Economic Corridor. At the seminar, the government will announce its readiness for and guidelines to support investment in order to push forward ‘Thailand 4.0’. Businesses applying digital technologies (e.g. big data analysis and the Internet of Things) to enhance competitiveness may receive further corporate tax deductions. Seminar attendees will be informed of infrastructure projects, in particular, within the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC).
Gas block auction gets back on track Delay ‘would hurt’ Thailand’s reputation 
Bangkok Post 09.03.18

After five years of uncertainty, the auction of the Bongkot and Erawan gas fields in the Gulf of Thailand is finally scheduled to take place next month as originally planned, says the National Energy Policy Council (NEPC). The government expects to announce the winners of the auction this December, Energy Minister Siri Jirapongphan told the media after the NEPC meeting Thursday. The prime minister, along with Mr Siri, said the auction can no longer be put off, as doing so would damage the country’s reputation. An invitation letter for the auction will be released in April, and a bidder pre-qualification process will take place in May. A screening for qualified candidates will be held in June, and a final shortlist will be announced thereafter. “The government expects to sign a contract next February,” Mr Siri said.
External

Alarm bells over shift to trade war

The Nation03.03.18
Exporters and investors are becoming increasingly alarmed as the prospect of a global trade war moved closer to reality after US President Donald Trump vowed to impose tariffs on imports of steel and aluminium. The Thai National Shippers’ Council (TNSC) has highlighted the risk of trade protectionism intensifying around the world and flags this as casting a shadow on its otherwise optimistic outlook for export growth. The council expects exports will expand 5.5 per cent this year, believing the global economic recovery will continue and increase demand for Thai exports, said Ghayapad Tantipipatpong, chairwoman of the TNSC, an exporters group, yesterday.Exports rose 17.6 per cent in January. The TNSC expects imports will rise 24.3 per cent this year as manufacturers buy more raw materials and capital goods to produce their finished products. The estimate for the rise in exports is based on an assumption that the baht will stay at around Bt31.5 to the US dollar.

16 Asean nations join RCEP talk
Matichon 07.03.18
After the 4th Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) ministerial meeting in Singapore, Deputy Minister of Commerce Chutima Bunyaprapatsorn revealed that the main agenda topic was further market opening and that all member countries have agreed to submit their amended proposals covering all product categories based on the tax reduction structure proposed by ASEAN by 13th April 2018. It is expected that this will be finalised in the 22nd RCEP committee meeting, which will be held from 28th April-8th May 2018 in Singapore. Representatives from ASEAN and India discussed pending issues at the meeting. Thailand and ASEAN plan to push forward RCEP to become the world’s largest trade and investment market, covering one-third of the global economy, with a total combined population of over 3.5 billion and $23 trillion of combined GDP (2017). The trade value between Thailand and RCEP members was $269 billion, representing 58.66% of Thailand’s total trade value.

Jewellery industry faces ‘disruptive’ digital technology

The Nation 08.03.18

Nearly 350 exhibitors from Thailand showcased their products at the recent Hong Kong International Jewellery Show and Hong Kong International Diamond, Gem and Pearl Show 2018.

The twin shows, which started on February 27 and ended on March 5, are regarded as the world’s largest events of its kind, with more than 4,500 exhibitors, according to Lawrence Ma, chairman of the organising committee. A total of 87,000 buyers from 145 countries attended the shows. Thailand’s Department of International Trade Promotion also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Hong Kong Trade and Development Council. Chantira Vivatrat, director-general of the department, said the latest MoU will boost the strategic partnership between the two agencies with a focus on e-commerce, data and other trade service cooperation.

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