Thai business group trims 2021 GDP outlook after new virus outbreak

BANGKOK, April 21 (Reuters) - Thailand’s joint business group on Wednesday trimmed its 2021 economic growth forecast for the second time this year to 1.5-3.0% from 1.5-3.5% after a third wave of coronavirus infections, despite improved exports.

The tourism-reliant country is struggling with a new outbreak that includes a highly contagious variant, with over 17,700 infections recorded in three weeks, dealing a blow to its already slow economic recovery.

The new economic projection is based on an assumption that Thailand will meet its vaccination targets and introduce fiscal measures of more than 200 billion baht ($6.39 billion) to support the economy, Supant Mongkolsuthree, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, told a briefing.

“Without such money, GDP will grow zero percent,” he said.

The group is concerned about the distribution of vaccines which has been slow and lacking clarity, he said.

“The rapid and severe spread has hurt domestic demand even as a clear global recovery will benefit Thai exports this year,” Supant said.

The group raised its export growth forecast to 4-6% this year from 3-5% previously projected.

Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy contracted 6.1% last year, the deepest slump in over two decades, as tourism tumbled. ($1 = 31.30 baht) (Reporting by Orathai Sriring and Satawasin Staporncharnchai Editing by Ed Davies)