BANGKOK: Thailand's tourism-reliant economy could take until the first quarter of 2023 to return to a normal position due to a third wave of coronavirus infections and uncertainty over its vaccine rollout, the central bank governor said on Monday.
The Southeast Asian country's latest, most severe outbreak emerged in April and has accounted for the vast majority of the its overall cases and deaths, while mass COVID-19 vaccinations will start next month.
With the third wave and the vaccine rollout highly uncertain, the economic recovery is expected to take time, Bank of Thailand Governor Sethaput Suthiwartnarueput told a seminar.
"It may have to wait until the first quarter of 2023 to get back to pre-COVID-19 levels," he said.
In March, the central bank said the economy might return to that level in the middle of 2022.
As the recovery will be slow, there is need to move quickly to resolve liquidity problems facing smaller businesses, Sethaput said.
The BOT recently introduced 350 billion baht (US$11.2 billion) of soft loans and a debt scheme to help businesses.
The recent outbreak began to affect the economy in April as private consumption and investment dropped, while tourism stayed low, the BOT said in a statement. (https://bit.ly/34v9Vp9)
Exports, another key driver of Thai growth, jumped 19.1per cent in April from a year earlier, while public spending continued to support the economy, it said.
Earlier this month, the BOT said the economy would expand at a much lower rate this year due to the latest outbreak.
The BOT's current GDP growth forecast is 3.0per cent this year and 4.7per cent next year. It is due to release new projections at its next policy review on June 23.
(US$1 = 31.22 baht)
(Reporting by Orathai Sriring, Kitiphong Thaichareon and Satawasin Staporncharnchai; Editing by Ed Davies, Martin Petty)