Thai PM aide renews call for interest-rate cuts to aid economy

Prommin Lertsuridej, the secretary-general to Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin. - Image from The Nation Thailand/ANN

BANGKOK: Thailand’s central bank faced renewed calls from the government camp to start easing monetary policy, with Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s top aide arguing that South-East Asia’s second-largest economy needed cheaper borrowing costs to spur growth.

The Bank of Thailand’s Monetary Policy Committee has some room to reduce the key rate to provide "immediate relief” to the people as budgetary support was still at least a month away, Prommin Lertsuridej, the secretary-general to Srettha, said Monday.

Prommin argued that lower rates can help tackle household debt and boost export value, while saying the economy needed to be rescued from a "critical condition” caused by elevated debt levels and low capacity utilization. That’s one of the reasons his boss Srettha has listed while appealing for rates to be brought down on an urgent basis.

The prime minister has previously cited months of negative inflation prints as evidence of waning consumer demand and, in turn, slowing economic growth.

Srettha and BOT Governor Sethaput Suthiwartnareuput have clashed for months on the approach to reviving the economy, rattling investors and turning the nation’s currency into among the worst performers in the region.

Sethaput has ruled out an emergency MPC meeting, snubbing a demand made by Srettha after data showed the economy had contracted in the final quarter of last year from the preceding three months.

Srettha has vowed to to continue his push for lower interest rate even after the central bank governor said that there was no compelling reason to call an emergency meeting to review the policy rate that’s currently at 2.5%, the highest since 2013.

Prommin said Monday that the government still aims to roll out the 500 billion baht ($14 billion) digital wallet program in May, although there’s scope for some possible delays. The program aims to handout 10,000 baht cash to 50 million individuals, as part of a goal to boost consumption.

Thailand’s economic growth potential is around 3%, and the government’s target to lift it to 5% may be too ambitious given the country’s aging population and structural issues, Sethaput has said previously. The divergent policy approach to reviving the economy is due to the different mandates vested on the central bank and the government, according to the governor.

-- ©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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Thailand , PM , Aide , urge , National Bank , Cut Rates , Help Economy


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