Digital finance to support Thai growth next year- Fin Min

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BANGKOK, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Thailand's digital finance will be a major boost to economic growth next year, helping smaller businesses gain more access to credit after a struggle to stay afloat during the pandemic, the finance minister said on Wednesday.

Small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs), the backbone of Southeast Asia's second-largest economy, have been hard hit by falling income and a lack of liquidity due to the impact of outbreaks.

Only some of about 3 million smaller firms have received financial support measures, Finance minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith told a news conference on the launch of digital supply chain finance.

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The service is part of a smart financial and payment infrastructure for business project, which connects government agencies, lenders, and businesses with digital technology.

"This will be a key driver of the economy in 2022," as it is fast and highly efficient, said Arkhom, who predicted economic growth of up to 4.5% next year.

Cash-strapped SMEs account for about 40% of Thailand's gross domestic product and 15 million jobs. A recent survey showed many of them were on the brink of closure.

The project can be a "game changer" that will support the business sector in digital transformation, central bank Governor Sethaput Suthiwartnarueput told the conference.

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Reporting by Orathai Sriring and Satawasin Staporncharnchai; Editing by Martin Petty

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