Thai premier announces more economic aid to counter recession
Thai PM survives no-confidence vote, faces mass rally next Thursday and calls for his resignation. He is pledging US$ 40 billion in three years to cope with economic downturn and unemployment.
Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – After surviving a vote of no-confidence last Saturday, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva announced on Sunday important steps to counter the global crisis that has plunged the Thai economy in recession and pushed up unemployment. The opposition for its part is organising a mass rally for this Thursday.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said yesterday that mass anti-government protest could turn violent, and warned that the authorities would not tolerate it.

Some 22 police companies and 6,000 soldiers will be deployed on Thursday to ensure public order and safety.

Supporters of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) plan to march from Sanam Luang to Government House and surround it to force the Abhisit government to resign. Similar actions in the recent past have destabilised previous governments.

The Phuea Thai party, which supports exiled former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, called for a no-confidence vote, charging the government with poorly handling the economy and supporting the protesters who occupied Bangkok's airports last year, and thus politically harming the previous administration and tarnishing its image. After three days of deliberations the Thai parliament expressed however its confidence in the current government.

Still Thailand is facing its worst economic crisis since 1997.  For the past five years exports grew at between 15 and 20 per cent—65 per cent of its GDP is in fact derived from exports.  The global slowdown has thus hit hard. Excluding gold, exports fell by a 25.6 per cent fall in January and 24.5 per cent in February.

Although Thailand's economy grew by 2.6 per cent in 2008, it contracted by 4.3 per cent in the last quarter of last year, and its performance is expected to be equal to or worse in the first quarter of this year.

Abhisit, who has been in power for three months, said in a speech on Sunday that unemployment should jump by at least a million this year, a significant figure even compared to 1997 when “only” 1.4 million Thais lost their job.

To cope with the situation he announced measures to retrain the jobless and new funding for small businesses.

Over the next three years, the government will invest about 1. 4 trillion baht (US$ 40 billion) in various projects, including roads, water resources, education, transportation and health care as well as some mega-projects like high speed trains, borrowing abroad about 70 billion baht (US$ 2 billion) to fund them.

Last month the government injected 116.7 billion baht (US$ 3.3 billion) into the economy to stimulate demand and create jobs.

However, experts doubt that stimulating domestic demand will offset falling demand for its exports, especially electronics and automobiles.

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