Thai Political Unrest Brings Economic Uncertainties

    20 February, 2014


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Economics Report.

    Economists are warning of slower growth in Thailand, southeast Asia's biggest economy. A major credit rating agency recently reported that continued political unrest in Thailand could hurt the country's economy.

    In its report, Fitch Ratings noted a reduction in manufacturing and sharply lower sales of goods and services. Fitch said, the trust of both Thai consumers and business is at its lowest level since the huge floods of 2011.

    Thai Political Unrest Brings Economic Uncertainties
    A sign indicating the closure of a main touristic road can be seen next to barricades of anti-government protesters near a main stage of the protest in Bangkok, Feb. 5, 2014.

    The ruling party is seeking to break up the opposition Democrat Party. Opposition forces accused the ruling party led by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinwatra of being disloyal to the king, that is a serious accusation in Thailand. The opposition has also questioned the fairness of recent elections.

    Now foreign investors are getting concerned. The president of Toyota Motor Corp in Thailand has warned that long term investors may put their money in other areas, like Indonesia or Vietnam.

    Chris Baker is an expert on business in Thailand. He says major foreign investors are concerned about the elections. They feel the lack of a clear winner will frighten investors. He also says car makers and related businesses are concerned the government will be unable to make serious policy decisions.

    Thailand's government is under financial pressure to pay rice farmers more than $3 billion for rice it promised to buy at higher than market prices. Now, the government is having trouble finding the money to pay the farmers.

    Banks have been unwilling to loan money for the plan. Foreign investors have also been pulling back from the Thai stock market since political protests began in November. The leading measure of Thai stocks has lost 10 percent of its value since then.

    Andrew McBean is a partner with Grant Thornton Thailand, a business advisory service. He says the fact that the elections were largely peaceful was a hopeful sign.

    Still Thailand's tourist industry has been hurt by the unrest in the capital Bangkok. More than forty countries have announced travel alerts in recent weeks. And tourism officials estimated losses for the month of January alone at $685 million.

    The Thai economy has recovered from earlier political and economical problems, but the recent unrest may make it harder for foreigners to want to return as they have in the past.

    And that's the Economics Report from VOA Learning English. You can find more programs at our website I'm Mario Ritter.