Thailand Plans $8.6 Billion Spending to Counter Slump

    hai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the government will spend 300 billion baht ($8.6 billion), or about 3 percent of gross domestic product, to help counter a slump in Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy.

    “The spending should start around March or April,” Abhisit told reporters today in Bangkok. “We had weak forecasts but we will try to achieve some growth.”

    Abhisit, who this week became Thailand’s third premier in four months, is increasing spending amid growing protests by farmers disgruntled by tumbling commodity prices. Export growth is being stunted by a global recession, and tourism income dropped after demonstrators closed Bangkok’s main airports a month ago.

    Thailand’s economy may contract in the first three months of 2009 after declining between 2 percent and 3 percent this quarter, according to the Finance Ministry. The last time the economy shrank two straight quarters, the technical definition of a recession, was in the six months ended March 1999.

    “That 300 billion baht is a lot of money,” Pornthep Jubandhu, an economist at SCB Securities Ltd., said by telephone from Bangkok. “Usually, the more the merrier, but the government has to be careful about disbursing and spending.”

    Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij said Dec. 24 government spending may cause Thailand to run a budget deficit of as much as 400 billion baht in fiscal 2010. That compares with a proposed shortfall of 350 billion baht on the 1.84-trillion-baht budget for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2009. Thailand’s public debt to gross domestic product ratio is “relatively low” at 35 percent, he said, providing some fiscal flexibility.

    The benchmark stock index gained 0.6 percent to 447.37 as of 11:54 a.m. in Bangkok.

    Abhisit will make a formal policy address to parliament on Dec. 29 and Dec. 30.

    Finance Minister Korn said Dec. 23 the government may spend a further 80 billion baht on top of the 100 billion baht in additional funds for the current fiscal year approved by the former government last month.

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