Thai economy may hit 2023 growth goal if Chinese tourists come- finmin

  • Says 2022 growth seen at 3.1% or 3.2%
  • Says tourism to get a boost if Chinese tourists return
  • Aims for budget deficit of 593 bln baht in 2024 fiscal year

BANGKOK, Dec 27 (Reuters) - Thailand's economy may accelerate next year and hit the 3.8% growth forecast provided its vital tourism sector will get a boost from China's reopening plans needed to offset slowing global demand, the finance minister said on Tuesday.

Growth in southeast Asia's second-largest economy has lagged that of other peers as the tourism sector just started to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. In pre-pandemic 2019, Chinese tourists accounted for about 28% of nearly 40 million foreign tourist arrivals.

Arkhom Termpittayapaisith estimated 2022 economic expansion at 3.1% or 3.2%.

"But next year we are still optimistic and hoping that we will get 3.8% (growth) with tourism the main driver," he told a news conference, saying there were signs that China would start to reopen.

Arkhom warned last month the 2023 growth forecast might be missed because of the global economic slowdown.

He said Thailand had received 11 million foreign tourists so far this year and the number should rise to some 21 million in 2023, or even further if Chinese tourists return.

Investment will also underpin the economy, Arkhom added.

The government is planning to cap its budget deficit at 3% of gross domestic product in the 2024 fiscal year, aiming for a deficit of 593 billion baht ($17.13 billion), Arkhom said.

The ministry's medium-term fiscal framework, approved by the cabinet on Tuesday, also saw the public debt at 61.35% of GDP at the end of the 2024 fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

Arkhom also said the Bank of Thailand's inflation target range of 1% to 3% was appropriate and monetary policy would ensure continued recovery of the economy.

While headline inflation was 5.55% in November, he said it would slow to within the target in 2023.

The central bank said recently it would keep raising rates until the economy grew at its full potential and inflation returned to target.

($1 = 34.62 baht)

Reporting by Orathai Sriring and Kitiphong Thaichareon; Editing by Martin Petty and Tomasz Janowski

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