March 24, 2020 / 9:50 AM / 12 days ago

Thailand approves $3.6 billion stimulus to ease coronavirus impact

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand’s cabinet approved on Tuesday a package of stimulus measures worth at least 117 billion baht ($3.56 billion) to try and mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak that has infected more than 800 people in the country.

Even before the outbreak, Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy had been hit by declining exports and weak investment.

The measures include cash handouts worth 45 billion baht for 3 million workers outside the social security system, who will also be offered soft loans worth 60 billion baht as well as tax breaks, government officials told a news conference.

Separately, small firms will be offered 10 billion baht of loans while the government will also delay business tax payments for companies to help boost their liquidity.

“The measures announced today should be sufficient for now,” said Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak.

“But there will be another package of stimulus... to help farmers affected by drought and to spur the economy,” he said.

Earlier this month, the government also approved stimulus measures estimated to inject 400 billion baht into the already flagging economy.

The economy grew 2.4% last year, the weakest pace in five years. Some economists expect an economic contraction this year owing to the outbreak.

Thailand reported on Tuesday 106 new coronavirus cases and 3 more deaths, taking the total to 827 cases and 4 deaths.

Thailand will be in emergency mode from March 26 for a month to deal with the outbreak, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Tuesday.

Reporting by Kitiphong Thaichareon; Satawasin Staporncharnchai and Orathai Sriring; Editing by Louise Heavens and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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