HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

BoT says economy in good shape but Middle East uncertainty a problem

Public energy efficiency measures could save 76 billion baht per year

Moody’s praises Thailand government for foWcusing more on external factors

Thai restaurants abroad should use Thai products

BoT says economy in good shape but Middle East uncertainty a problem

Phitsanu Thepthong

The public confidence in the North’s business sector is still high, according to the Bank of Thailand (BoT) officials. The outlook for the business sector is expected to be positive, following increased demand and forward purchases, as well as the investment and employment sector which is sound.

However, overall investment might be badly affected from the rise in oil prices, said the BoT.

Part of the recovery has been through tourism, said the BoT, although the agricultural sector has been slipping. While the industrial production sector has improved, especially exports, some areas such as sugar production volumes were reduced following the decrease in the sugar cane harvest.

In the finance sector, credit amount was increased, when compared to same period last year, while deposits were slightly up.

The bankers remain confident that the overall economic state is still in a good condition, but it is weaker than the previous months due to the “uncertainty” of the war crisis that is threatened to erupt in the Middle East.

Public energy efficiency measures could save 76 billion baht per year

The Thai public is being asked to help share the rising price of oil. The government says that basic energy saving measures for vehicles and in the home could save over 76 billion baht a year.

Permanent Secretary for Energy, Chertphong Siriwich, gave the public a scolding for losing interest in energy efficiency. He said the government’s intervention in the price of oil had made the public complacent. Describing the current situation as an oil price crisis, he called on the public to ensure that they used energy as efficiently as possible.

Chertphong pointed out that the simple measure of checking the condition of personal vehicles could save 3,000 baht per vehicle each year, while driving at a speed of 90 kilometers per hour as opposed to 110 kilometers per hours would cut fuel consumption by 25 percent. This could result in average annual savings per vehicle of 9,600 baht or nationwide savings of 67 billion baht.

The energy minister also said that switching off one 40-watt florescent light bulb for 12 hours a day could save 430 baht each year, and that if every household in Thailand did this the nation could save 5.2 billion baht per annum.

As part of its efficiency campaign, the Ministry of Energy is also urging the public to keep air conditioning no lower than 25 degrees Celsius, which could result in saving another 98 million baht per year. (TNA)

Moody’s praises Thailand government for focusing more on external factors

A draft report from Moody’s Investors Service praised Thailand’s government for trying to promote competitive exports and attract foreign investment, after focusing on stimulating domestic demand for the past two years.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s government “is seeking to balance the new domestic orientation ... with an intention to maintain Thailand’s external competitiveness and ensure continued foreign participation in the economy,” the draft said.

A copy of the draft report, given to reporters on Friday by a Thai government official, said rising tax revenues, successful efforts to boost domestic demand and strong export growth justified the rating agency’s shift last year to a positive outlook for Thailand’s credit ratings.

Moody’s senior analyst Tom Byrne said last month that the possible effects of war in Iraq stand in the way of any decision on a credit ratings upgrade for Thailand’s investment-grade Baa3 long-term foreign-currency rating. A Baa rating roughly represents average creditworthiness.

But the new draft report said a persistent current account surplus and high foreign reserves created a cushion for any ill effects of an Iraq war on Thailand’s balance of payments.

Byrne and the draft report both noted that the recovery in gross domestic product growth to around 5 percent in 2002 from 1.9 percent the previous year was broad-based, with private consumption, private investment and exports all rising.

Thai restaurants abroad should use Thai products

Shame on them! Thai restaurants around the world have been urged to use Thai products. Thai restaurants serving their customers Chinese noodles and Indian Ocean prawns and ingredients from nations other than Thailand were recently given an implicit rap over the knuckles by Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Sora-ath Klinprathum who called on owners to use Thai products for Thai cuisine.

Sora-ath said that the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives want Thai restaurants abroad to help build up a brand name for Thai food products in order to transform Thailand into a ‘global kitchen’.

Relevant agencies will be asked to band together to ensure that all raw ingredients used by Thai restaurants abroad were sourced from Thailand, a move which would boost the restaurants’ credibility in the eyes of their customers.

The minister hinted that the ministry might operate a certification scheme to guarantee customers that a restaurant only used Thai ingredients. (TNA)