Asian Markets

Thai official says 2021 GDP growth could top 0.7% forecast

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BANGKOK, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Thailand's central bank is maintaining its forecast for 0.7% growth in gross domestic product this year, but the figure could end up being slightly higher, a senior director said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the impact of the Omicron coronavirus variant on the economy is also likely to only appear next year, senior Bank of Thailand (BOT) director Chayawadee Chai-Anant, told a virtual news conference.

The assessment of how the variant could play out will take time but there should be a clearer picture at the next monetary policy committee meeting on Dec. 22, she said.

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"We are watching for developments and the severity (of Omicron)," said Chayawadee, noting that a good signal appeared to be that the response from many countries to Omicron had been faster than with the earlier Delta variant.

The BOT said on Tuesday that exports, a key driver of the economy, rose 17% in October from a year earlier, with imports up 20.1% year-on-year and a trade surplus of $3.8 billion.

Thailand recorded a current account deficit of $1.1 billion in October after a deficit of $1.3 billion the previous month, the central bank said.

Chayawadee said monetary measures would support a recovery in the tourism-reliant economy and fiscal measures continued to be introduced.

The BOT, which expects GDP growth to recover to 3.9% next year, has left its benchmark interest rate (THCBIR=ECI) at a record low of 0.50% since May, 2020.

The cabinet on Tuesday approved a 76 billion baht ($2.26 billion) plan to support rice farmers' income and an additional 10 billion baht to support rubber prices, government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana told a separate briefing.

($1 = 33.7000 baht)

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Reporting by Kitiphong Thaichareon, Satawasin Staporncharnchai and Chayut Setboonsarng Editing by Ed Davies

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