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Abhisit calls on govt to tackle adverse effects of 300-baht wage policy, claiming policy was first conceived by Democrats

BANGKOK, 18 February 2013 (NNT) - Opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has urged the government to come up with measures to tackle the adverse effect of the 300-baht minimum wage policy, while also claiming that the Democrat party was the first to come up with a policy to raise workers' income, but that the policy was adopted by the rival Puea Thai party. At a public forum held at the Democrat party headquarters, the Opposition leader said that the government's 300-baht minimum wage policy is not the "final answer" for Thai workers. He said the policy has a number of undesirable consequences, including lay-offs and illegal employments. He said that the government, in implementing the policy, was envisaging only the policy's immediate consequences, without considering its longer-term effects. He added that his party had always pushed for policies that would help workers develop skills, with the aim of raising their income, but that the policy was hijacked by his rival Puea Thai party. Moreover, Mr Abhisit said that, contrary to the simplicity of its name, Puea Thai's minimum wage policy has many conditions attached to it. Meanwhile, Vice President of Uni Thailand, a labour advocate group, echoes Mr Abhisit's concern that the policy has resulted in unemployment because of companies closing down. But she also raised another concern - that is, that many workers are not currently receiving 300 baht per day as prescribed.

Two committees to work on Thai-EU FTA talks

BANGKOK, Feb 18 – A joint meeting of the state and private sectors on Monday agreed to form two committees to plan a framework of Thailand European Union Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiation, said Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom.

Monday’s meeting of government officials and the Thai Chamber of Commerce took place on the eve of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's March 4-6 European visit when the Thai-EU FTA will get a go-ahead.

Mr Boonsong said the two committee, to be chaired by the commerce permanent-secretary, are an ad-hoc committee of state, private and social sectors responsible for exchanging information on the matter and the other committee to facilitate the private sector on trade.

The budget will be allocated from the export promotion fund.

He stressed that European economic problems will not negatively impact the FTA negotiations as it is believed that any problems will be resolved soon.

The minister also said he believes the FTA talks will be advantageous for Thailand as it will help offset the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), which will end at the end of 2014.

Meanwhile, Chairman Pongsak Assakul, Thai Chamber of Commerce said it is good that the state sector pay attention to the issue.

The private sector will hold a seminar on April 29 to gather stakeholder opinions on the free trade talks before further discussion with the state sector takes place. (MCOT online news)

Thai economy set to grow 4.5-5.5% this year: NESDB

BANGKOK, Feb 18 - The Thai economy expanded 6.4 per cent last year and is expected to grow 4.5-5.5 per cent this year, the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) reported today.

The economy surged 18.9 per cent in the last quarter compared to a slump in the corresponding period in 2011 when devastating floods disrupted output by manufacturers, the agency said.

Akom Termpittayapaisit, NESDB chief, said this year's export growth may expand 11 per cent with domestic consumption, and investments are expected to rise 3.5 and 8.9 per cent respectively.

Inflation is likely to stay within the range of 2.5-3.5 per cent, he said.

Mr Akom noted that the positive trend of improving global economy could be a boon for Thai exports. The growth in the first half of this year is likely to be driven mainly by rising domestic demand as well as the government's first-time car buyers scheme which helps boost local purchasing power.

In addition,the government's mega infrastructure projects will inject a huge amount of cash into the economy, in particular the flood-prevention and water management budget, he said.

Expansion of labour-intensive industries could be limited by rising costs of production as a result of the 300 baht minimum wage, he said, adding that the wage hike would help improve workers' quality of life.

Among key risk factors pressuring the Thai economy this year, the NESDB chief expressed concern over the influx of foreign capital resulting in the appreciating Thai baht which has risen 2.7 per cent this year. (MCOT online news)

Central bank praises Govt’s infrastructure investment

BANGKOK, 18 February 2013 (NNT) - The Bank of Thailand (BoT) has pointed out that the government’s infrastructure investment is stimulating growth in the country’s real estate sector.

Director of the Office of Monetary Policy of the central bank Songtham Pinto said on Monday that the overall property market in 2013 would still be able to expand due to infrastructure investment from the public sector and the continuously growing Thai economy. Other factors that will benefit real estate include the minimum wage increase and a low jobless rate. All these factors would contribute to people’s higher confidence to spend, the executive said.

However, Mr Songtham warned that the global economy’s volatility would remain a risk factor that should be monitored, saying he hoped there would be no global economic crisis that affected the real estate sector. If the sector was hit, the whole economic system would also feel the blow of the crisis as it was labor intensive.

Transport Ministry holds public hearing on construction of high speed train

UDON THANI, 18 February 2013 (NNT)-The Ministry of Transport has invited public participation in a meeting that allows stake holders in the planned construction of a high speed rail between Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima to air their views on likely impacts from the project to their daily life.

The meeting, organized by the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning of the Ministry of Transport, is the fourth in a series after similar hearings were conducted in Nakhon Nayok, Saraburi and Nakhon Ratchasima.

Those attending the meeting included local administrators, members of the private sector, educational institutions and people living in the areas to be affected by the rail construction. They were divided into groups, and their opinions would be compiled for use in the improvement of the project to ensure maximum benefits to the people when it is built.

The hi-speed train project is developed to improve and enhance transportation systems in the four parts of the country. It is also expected to encourage manufacturers to set up their production bases along the rail routes.

The Cabinet last year gave nod to the construction of 4 high-speed railways between Bangkok-Chiang Mai, Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima, Bangkok-Hua Hin and between Suvarnabhumi Aiport and Pattaya. The high speed trains are expected to help reduce traffic congestion, road accidents and the cost of energy as they are running on electricity. It is expected that the project will save energy cost in the transport sector by at least 6 billion baht per year.

NESDB predicts Thai economy to grow by 4.5-5.5%, inflation at 2.5-3.5% in 2013

BANGKOK, 18 Febraury 2013 (NNT) - The Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) estimates that the Thai economy in 2013 will grow at the rate of 4.5-5.5%.

The think-tank's secretary-general Akom Termpitayapaisit said that the major drives for the nation's economic growth will be the recovery of the US, European and Chinese economies, the government's investment projects, the recovery of the electronics and computer industries, and the healthy domestic demand.

The think-tank, meanwhile, predicts that this year's exports will grow by 11% and inflation to stay low at 2.5-3.5%.

As to risk factors, Mr Akom said that capital outflows and an unstable baht will pose a serious risk to the economy. He emphasizes that a strong or a weak baht will not pose as much risk as an unstable baht.

Regarding the possibility of using monetary policies to stimulate further growth, Mr Akom said that interest rate adjustments may be used to stimulate growth, but they will come at some costs. In his opinion, the present economic conditions do not warrant such drastic measures,he said.

BoT introduces three measures to tackle strong baht

BANGKOK, 18 February 2013 (NNT) - The Bank of Thailand (BoT) has revealed three measures to tackle the strong baht, all aimed at encouraging baht holders to use the baht to buy more foreign correncies.

The BoT is reportedly in the process of authorising three measures to weaken the baht. The first measure is to lift the limit on the amount of investment that SMEs and individual investors can invest in foreign properties. Earlier SMEs and individual investors had to ask for authorisation from the BoT for any investment larger than 50 million US dollars.

The second measure is to allow those with loans in foreign currencies to buy and deposit foreign currencies in their accounts, in amounts no larger than the size of their loans.

The third measure is to lift the limit on the amount of money that may be transfered outside of the country, previously capped at 2,000 US dollars per transaction. The measure will allow transfers of funds of any amount according to the transferer's need, subject to authorisation by the BoT.

The measures came after the Finance Ministry pressured on the BoT to urgently solve the problem of the strong baht. Commenting on the current situation, Assistant to the BoT Governor on Financial Markets, Chantawan Sucharitkul said that there would still be an influx of capital into the country in April, but the it would not be as strong as that in March.

As for capital control measures, Ms Chantawan said the BoT "does not consider a capital control measure appropriate at this point", pointing out that the BoT has different levels of measures suitable for different levels of imbalances.

Energy agencies prepares for Myanmar’s gas supply disruption in April

BANGKOK, Feb 16 – Energy minister Pongsak Raktapongpaisal will call on a meeting with related agencies next week in preparation to handle Myanmar’s gas supply suspension from April 4-12.

Myanmar plans to suspend natural gas delivery of 1.1 billion cubic feet per day to Thailand in order to repair drilling rigs at the Yadana gas field.

The meeting will discuss measures to be put in place in case of an emergency, the minister said.Those measures include sourcing alternative fuel to offset shortfall and asking for cooperation from the public to reduce electricity usage.

Agencies concerned will be instructed to reserve liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports.The possibility to resume operations of mothballed diesel power plants will be discussed at the meeting, he said adding that switching to fuel oil and diesel to produce electricity will increase costs. (MCOT online news)

Port workers shun working overtime, demand boss removal

BANGKOK, Feb 16 – Workers of the state-operated Port Authority of Thailand (PAT) declared their refusal to work overtime this weekend and pressed for the dismissal of director general Viroj Chongchansittho, who was charged with mismanagement and creating internal conflicts.

The PAT labour union announced that 500-600 stevedores will not work beyond official working hours, starting from 4.30 pm Friday until tomorrow.
The threat prompted shipping companies to call for an immediate solution to the labour dispute, or their logistics costs would be severely affected.

Charae Meedanu, PAT labour union leader, said the stevedores will resume their regular working hours on Monday morning and some importers/exporters have been informed of their move.

The labour union called on the PAT management to suspend the employment of Mr Viroj and demanded that PAT give overdue overtime payment to employees.

The PAT board of directors is scheduled to have its regular meeting on Monday and a review of Mr Viroj’s performance is on the agenda. Mr Viroj’s employment term is due to expire in April 2015.

Paiboon Polsuwanna, chairman of the Thai National Shippers’ Council, said exporters hope the conflict will last only a few days, or their logistics costs will surge.
Over the last several years, exporters have done their best in meeting deadlines in their product delivery and even requested round-the-clock stevedores’ service, he said. (MCOT online news)

TCC urges govt to conclude FTA negotiations with EU

BANGKOK, 14 February 2013 (NNT) - The Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC) is urging the government to swiftly conclude negotiations on a free-trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union ahead of the establishment of a U.S.-EU trade agreement.

US President Barack Obama issued a press release on Wednesday, announcing the start of the negotiations on Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between EU and US. Once signed, the economic partnership between the two regions will account for half of the global economic output and nearly one trillion dollars in goods and services trade.

TCC president Pongsak Atsakul said the government should not further delay negotiations as the country will not stand to reap maximum benefits from the planned US-EU free trade agreement for all sectors involved. He added that the FTA with the EU itself will help maintain Thailand's competitiveness and support long-term trade and investment.

Last month, the cabinet has approved a framework for the free trade agreement which is set to prevent an exclusion of Thailand from the generalised system of preferences (GSP) in 2015 and the transfer of EU investment bases from Thailand to neighbouring countries. Critics have remarked however that the framework is expected to put Thailand at a disadvantage, particularly on drug patents and intellectual property.

Gov't expands village fund scheme with new Bt15 billion injection

BANGKOK, Feb 15 – A fresh allocation of Bt15 billion will be granted to the village fund project to spur the economy at the grassroots level, according to a cabinet member.

Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Varathep Ratanakorn said the money will be distributed to 15,000 village funds, each having a start-up cash flow of Bt1 million.

Combined with an earlier amount of Bt21 billion earmarked to 21,000 village funds, the total money circulated in rural communities nationwide is Bt36 billion, he said.

He said the Government Savings Bank, the Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives and Krung Thai Bank have been assigned to facilitate villagers in managing their respective funds and setting financial discipline among fund members.

Mr Varathep said the village fund scheme has stimulated financial circulation, spending and investments in rural areas, covering 13 million people under the project.

The government aims for a total of 80,000 village funds throughout the country but inefficient and mismanaged funds must be developed with the final objective of allowing self-management among fund members, the minister said, citing some successful funds which have boosted their Bt1 million capital to Bt10 million.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra officially launched the Bt15 billion new allocation in a colourful event in Chiang Mai on Thursday and expressed her appreciation to some fund operators who sharply increased their capital to Bt50-100 million.

The village fund project, the brainchild of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, has been in existence for 11 years, currently with 79,255 local funds nationwide. (MCOT online news)

Energy Ministry to expand NGV pipeline network across Thailand

BANGKOK, 15 February 2013 (NNT) – The Energy Ministry is set to expand the natural gas vehicle (NGV) pipeline network throughout the country in order to enable consumers in the upcountry to enjoy energy at the same prices as Bangkok residents.

Energy Minister Pongsak Ruktapongpisal, on Thursday, chaired the launch of the project aimed at educating and hearing opinions of energy business operators, which kicked off with a seminar.

Mr. Pongsak said that the seminar was organized to encourage both state offices and private companies involved in energy business to exchange ideas while offering more knowledge on efficient energy use to them.

He added that the Energy Ministry is reviewing a plan to have the Department of Energy Business in charge of the expansion of the NGV pipeline network to other parts of the country and the extension of oil pipelines to the North and the Northeast.

The Energy Minister stated that such a project will allow people in every corner of Thailand an opportunity to enjoy fuel and energy at similar prices paid by Bangkok consumers.

According to the Energy Minister, the expansion work is set to be completed before the end of this year and becomes operational within 3 years.

In addition, the Energy Ministry is pushing hard with its clampdown on those found smuggling gas drilled in Thailand to neighboring countries.

SRT invests 234 mill baht to revamp JJ market

BANGKOK, 15 February 2013 (NNT) – The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) has announced a 234-million-baht plan to revamp Chatuchak (JJ) weekend market, with construction set to begin in March.

Deputy director for operations and Chatuchak market director Jaraspan Wacharothai said that after one year under the SRT’s management, the weekend market is set to undergo a landscaping renovation, with plans to improve pathways, sign posts and water management systems.

The first phase of the plan will commence in March with an initial investment of 114 million baht. Pathways will be retiled and new signs will be erected in a bid to facilitate Thai and foreign visitors. The construction is scheduled to conclude in September.

Another renovation project is poised to kick start in October, focusing on improving draining systems and roofing.

Mr Jaraspan added that the market generates over 38 million baht in revenue per month for the SRT, compared to the market’s annual revenue of 20 million baht when it was under the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration. He further hinted that a rent hike for trading stalls is being considered by the SRT but details have not been finalized.


Central bank brushes aside allocation from national budget

BANGKOK, Feb 14 – The Bank of Thailand (BoT) gave assurances today that it is capable of managing its Bt530 billion budget deficit without having to touch the national coffers.

BoT Governor Prasarn Trairatvorakul emphasised the central bank’s role in maintaining the country’s economic and financial stability, saying that any evaluation of the BoT’s performance is based on the nation’s economic stability rather than on profit-making.

He said the accumulated Bt530 billion deficit was due to the central bank’s interventions in the appreciating Thai currency and losses from the 2 per cent interest margin.

Such losses can be managed by the BoT without having to disturb money from the public’s taxes, he said.

Regarding conflicts with the Finance Ministry on policies about inflows of foreign capital, Mr Prasarn said that different opinions are normal in every country and it is constructive as it leads to an understanding of all negative impacts.

Both the Finance Ministry and BoT are concerned with the capital movement which can lead to a financial bubble if it is excessive, he said.

Mr Prasarn pointed out that low interest rate may lead to a bubble phenomenon in the real estate sector and the stock market due to profit speculations while high interest rates may trigger profit speculations in the bond market.

“We have to make a balance, and the interest rate is not the only element that stimulates an inflow of overseas capital,” the BoT governor said. “Investors take several elements into consideration. In Thailand, sentiment is the most crucial risk factor for investment.”

He gave reassurances that the central bank is equipped with several levels of financial mechanism to stabilise the nation’s financial system. (MCOT online news)

Agriculture Min to continue egg price stabilization

BANGKOK, 14 February 2013 (NNT) – The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives is keen to extend the egg price stabilizing project until the end of this year, claiming the project has been very effective in solving an oversupply of eggs in the market.

Agriculture Minister Yukol Limlamthong revealed that egg situation in the market is now stabilizing. The price of mixed sized eggs sold at the farm is at 2.8 baht, while the production cost is around 2.71 baht per egg. Last year, the government allocated 126 million baht for the project.

Since the egg price stabilizing project is coming to an end in March, the government is now considering whether it should extend the time frame until year end.

The minister said he had assigned the Department of Livestock Development to take control of the number of laying hens, after finding that there was an oversupply of eggs in the market, which could result in a decline of egg prices in the future.

Commerce Min to promote high-quality rice in Europe, Mideast markets

BANGKOK, 14 February 2013 (NNT) – The Department of Foreign Trade (DFT) has planned to send representatives to join major trade fairs related to rice in Germany and UAE, with an aim to promote high-quality Thai rice among foreigners.

According to DFT Director-General Pranee Siripan, rice representatives will attend the World Organic Trade Fair, or Biofach 2013, in Germany during February 13-16; as well as Gulfood 2013, the world’s biggest annual food and hospitality exhibition, in United Arab Emirates during February 25-28.

For the Biofach, the representatives will showcase Thai organic rice and products from organic rice, and discuss business opportunities with prospective buyers. The director-general hoped that Thai organic rice producers could make inroads into the European market, which is known for customers with high purchasing power and those who prefer healthful food.

In 2012, Thailand exported 3,200 tons of organic jasmine rice to Europe, accounting for 76% of all Thai exported organic jasmine rice. The target is on Europeans with Asian descents.

As for the Gulfood, the department aims to promote high- quality products, including jasmine, organic, and geographical indication (GI) rice, which is high in nutrition, among Arab buyers with high purchasing powers, and the UAE , which is the product distribution center for to other Middle Eastern countries.

2,000 workers laid off due to 300 baht wage; 4,000 more could be on chopping block

BANGKOK, 14 February 2013 (NNT)-The Ministry of Labor reveals that nearly 2,000 workers have been laid off so far this year, thanks to the minimum wage hike, and the future also looks bleak for another 4,000.

Labor Minister Padermchai Sasomsap said 1,874 workers have been laid off by 41 companies since January 1st; 500 of whom as a direct result of the minimum wage rise, according to Department of Labor Protection and Welfare. Moreover, 24 more companies with a combined workforce of 3,901 are likely to terminate their employment in the near future.

Meanwhile, the Social Security Office (SSO) has reported that 52,000 people have registered for unemployment benefit. However, only 4,000 of the number were laid off, with the majority of them citing personal reasons for quitting their jobs.

Those whose jobs have been terminated as a result of the new wage will be qualified for unemployment benefit, but only if they apply for it through the SSO. They will be paid half of what they were earning for a period of 6 months, while those who quit on their own will be paid 30% of their last month's income for the next 3 months.

PM Yingluck urges trade-related agencies to push for 9% export growth rate

BANGKOK, 15 February 2013 (NNT) – The Prime Minister has urged all trade-related agencies to help Thailand achieve a healthy export growth rate in 2013.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said on Thursday that the economic Cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, discussed moves to further promote Thai exports in 2013, especially in the areas of border trade.

Mr. Kittiratt stated that although Thailand has already recorded trade surpluses with many countries, the PM still urges related state agencies to continue the improvement of the country’s import-export procedures in order to boost cross-border trade, particularly with other ASEAN markets, where growth potential is high.

For western markets, including Europe and US, where situations are more stable, Ms. Yingluck asked all responsible units to put extra efforts into the penetration of all markets as a team.

The Premier suggested the collaboration between such agencies as the Commerce Ministry, the Agriculture Ministry, the Tourism Ministry and the private sector as a vehicle to help the country achieve the target export growth rate of 9%.

PM unveils Southeast Asia’s biggest wind energy farm

NAKHON RATCHASIMA, Feb 13 – Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra officially launched Thailand’s first wind power project here, acclaimed as the largest in Southeast Asia, in a move to become regional leader in green enegry.

The West Huay Bong 2 and 3 wind farms in this northeastern province are producing wind energy to be supplied to the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) and other customers with a production capacity of 207 megawatts (MW).

Nopporn Suppipat, chief executive officer of Wind Energy Holding Co, said Tuesday that each wind farm consists of 45 wind turbines, each with a power production capacity of 2.3 MW or a total production of 103.5 MW for the entire project which is operated on an investment of Bt13 billion (US$495 million).

West Huay Bong 2 is developed by KR 2 Co and West Huay Bong 3 by First Koat Wind Co. Both companies are subsidiaries of West Energy Holding Co. The two projects are located at Dan Khun Thod and Theparak districts in Nakhon Ratchasima.

Both projects have been awarded non-firm power purchase agreements from EGAT and smaller power producers with a 10-year subsidy of Bt3.50 per unit added from the Power Department Fund Management, Office of Energy Regulatory Commission.

“We are doing something different for sustainable development,” said Mr Nopporn. “Wind power is inexhaustible and clean. It lessens our dependence on diminishing fossil energy and it is in accord with the government’s target to increase production of alternative energy to 9,201 MW, including 1,200 MW of wind energy, in 2021.”

Wind Energy Holding plans to expand its wind power project to produce more than 1,000 MW overall. It has signed agreements to sell wind power from West Huay Bong 2 (90 MW), West Huay Bong 3 (90 MW) and Khao Khor Wind Farm (60 MW).

The company is scheduled to supply wind power to EGAT next year while the latter promised to purchase more from the three projects. (MCOT online news)

Thai Islamic Bank asserts financial strength despite soaring NPLs

BANGKOK, Feb 13 – A senior Islamic Bank of Thailand (IBank) executive has affirmed that the bank’s financial status and liquidity are strong as ever despite its rocketing non-performing loans (NPLs) at Bt39 billion, 20 per cent of its total lending.

Thanin Angsuwarangsi, IBank manager, said Bt24.3 billion debts are being negotiated by the bank and debtors while the bank's liquidity is normal.

IBank is capable of increasing its capital in accord with the Finance Ministry’s framework and depositors have no cause to worry, he said.

He said the bank has submitted its plan for a capital increase and NPL solutions to the Finance Ministry and hoped for the ministry’s approval soon.

Mr Thanin said before he took the helm at IBank last October, the bank concentrated on offering loans to major enterprises instead of lending to Muslim customers.

After a restructuring of IBank’s role, it will emphasise giving loans to Muslim Thai people and small-time business operators at a proportion of 50 per cent to Muslim Thais, 25 per cent to major businesses and 25 per cent to smaller businesses, he said.

Mr Thanin said IBank is currently negotiating with more than 100 major debtors, each indebted at higher than Bt100 million, and the majority are willing to discuss debt resolution on the NPLs with the bank.

He believed the problem of Bt39 billion NPLs will be solved in three years, adding that IBank officers who are found to unscrupulously offer loans to customers will be legally dealt with.

Finance Ministry pledges to keep a close eye on foreign fund inflows

BANGKOK, 14 February 2013 (NNT) – The Finance Ministry has pledged to keep a close eye on the inflows of foreign funds, for fears of their impact on the already-strong baht.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said that he is determined to control the inflows of foreign capital into the country, which have caused the baht to strengthen considerably.

Mr. Kittiratt stated that the Finance Ministry and the Bank of Thailand (BoT) have both been focused on the implementation of a long-term policy to prevent the excessive influx of foreign funds, which are interested in any market with comparatively high interest rate, like Thailand.

In order for the local economy to enjoy sustainable growth, the Finance Ministry believes the BoT should consider cutting its benchmark interest rate while noting that such a decision is up to the central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee to make.

When asked about reports on the suggestion from Moody’s credit ratings for Thailand to implement more fund flow control measures, Mr. Kittiratt said that he will not make any comment on the issue, which has been made public, but affirmed that the Finance Ministry will consider the matter if the it has been formally advised.

Local SMEs affected by new daily minimum wage to receive more state assistance

BANGKOK, 14 February 2013 (NNT) - The Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion Committee has agreed to implement special measures to help SME operators, who have been hit hard by the recent implementation of the 300-baht daily minimum wage policy.

Industry Minister Prasert Boonchaisuk said that Deputy PM and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong has recently called for a meeting with the Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion Committee to discuss appropriate measures to help SME businesses, which are affected by the new daily minimum wage.

Mr. Prasert stated that the meeting agreed to allocate 310 million baht from its 2013 fund as financial assistance for hardest-hit entrepreneurs and another 200 million baht to be used as interest subsidy for some 6,300 SME business borrowers.

The daily minimum wage hike, which came into effect across the country at the beginning of this year, has driven business costs up considerably, especially in labor-intensive industries. The policy has also allegedly forced a number of small and medium enterprises to shut down.

The Industry Minister, however, conceded that the SME fund will only be of some help for those in need, while affected business operators are to look for ways to improve themselves in every possible way to make it through the current circumstances.

Commerce Ministry appreciates France’s support for Thai-EU FTA talks

BANGKOK, 14 February 2013 (NNT) – The Commerce Ministry has expressed its appreciation for France’s support for the negotiations of the Thai-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom revealed on Wednesday that he has recently met with Mrs. Nicole Bricq, France’s Minister for Foreign Trade, who accompanied the French Prime Minister and his spouse in an official visit to Thailand.

Mr. Boonsong also had a meeting with 37 leading French business people, who traveled with the French delegation, during which both sides agreed Thailand and France have long been trade allies and should further expand bilateral economic ties.

In addition, the visiting French investors concurred with the notion that a successful FTA between Thailand and European Union will benefit both nations greatly, in the areas of trade and investment.

The Commerce Minister added that Mrs. Bricq also showed an interest in Thailand’s infrastructural development projects, such as public transport system, satellite, high-speed rail system and the airport expansion.

He stated that France has expressed its support for further negotiations on the Thai-EU FTA, which it suggested should emphasize on balanced trade and investment between both countries as well as the reduction of trade barriers, including the non-tariff ones.

Low-cost carriers asked to fly to more destinations in ASEAN

BANGKOK, 13 February 2013 (NNT) - Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has assigned the Ministry of Transport and the Airports of Thailand to study the feasibility of increasing routes operated by low-cost airlines to ASEAN countries.

After her meeting with an executive of Air Asia at Government House on Wednesday, Ms Yingluck revealed that the discussion mainly focused on the idea to increase low-cost routes due to significant growth of air passengers. The PM said the Thai government wanted to see more routes operated between Thailand, its neighboring countries and other countries in ASEAN.

The feasibility study on the opening of more routes is under the responsibility of the Airports of Thailand and the Ministry of Transport.

Energy Ministry toughens law on LPG vehicle conversion

BANGKOK, 13 February 2013 (NNT) - The Energy Ministry is set to toughen the regulation on Liquefied Petroleum Gas vehicle conversion following a car explosion last week.

On February 7, an explosion took place at a garage offering LPG installation in Bangkok’s Taling Chan district. The blast injured five people and destroyed four nearby cars.

Energy Minister Pongsak Raktapongpaisal said that after a meeting with officials from the Ministries of Transport and Industry, new safety measures have been outlined in a bid to prevent a repetition of the incident. The Industry ministry will speed up a probe into existing safety requirements for LPG-powered cars while the Transport Ministry plans to tighten registration rule for LPG vehicles.

According to the minister, LPG can form explosive mixtures with air. Once leaked from its container, the gas may lead to an explosion upon contacting a source of ignition.

Touching on the issue of LPG smuggling out of Thailand, Mr Pongsak said police have been tracking the smuggling routes used by unscrupulous exporters. Those found guilty of smuggling are subject to a fine of up to 100,000 baht and a prison sentence of up to 10 years. In recent years, LPG has consistently been smuggled from Thailand to neighbouring countries where prices are higher in significant volume.

52,000 Thai workers lose jobs from minimum wage hike

BANGKOK, Feb 12 – More than 52,000 employees under Thailand's social security scheme have applied for unemployment benefits due to losing their jobs in the wake of the country's minimum wage hike, Labour Minister Phadermchai Sasomsub said.

He said the figure of 52,426 jobless former employees was compiled from Jan 1 to Feb 4. The daily minimum wage of Bt300 was implemented nationwide Jan 1.

He said the Social Security Fund had paid about Bt1.13 billion to the unemployed workers.

Among the workers affected, 3,735 were laid off, 10,989 resigned, 484 were not entitled to social security fund assistance, and 34,408 had yet to be formally notified of their employment termination by their employers. (MCOT online news)

Finance Ministry nods to SME Bank’s rehabilitation move

BANGKOK, Feb 12 – The Small and Medium Enterprises Bank (SME Bank) today received a preliminary endorsement for its proposed rehabilitation plan and vowed to continue its operations despite the pending threat of an exorbitant amount of non-performing loans.

Pichai Chunhavajira, SME Bank chief executive officer, said the rehabilitation plan was submitted to Deputy Finance Minister Thanusak Lek-uthai and representatives of the Fiscal Policy Office and the State Enterprise Policy Office.

Mr Pichai, who led the SME Bank team in working on the rehabilitation plan, said the bank also explained on a scheme to deal with non-performing loans (NPLs), an improvement of the information technology system to cope with new lending and organisational restructuring to concentrate more on the bank’s core business.

The deputy finance minister approved the rehabilitation plan and promised to offer policy support to enable the SME Bank to continue its business, he said.

The finance and industry ministries will be regularly informed on progress of the rehabilitation, Mr Pichai said, stressing the SME Bank’s principle to provide financial assistance to small- and medium-sized businesses in Thailand.

He said he was assured by the Fiscal Policy Office that the SME Bank will not be merged with the Government Savings Bank as widely speculated. (MCOT online news)

Unilever to invest more in Thailand

BANGKOK, 12 February 2013 (NNT) - The multinational consumer goods giant Unilever is preparing to increase its investment in Thailand by 2.8 billion baht on confidence that domestic consumption will continuously expand.

Chairman of Unilever Thailand & Indochina Bauke Rouwers estimated that the overall Thai economy would continue to be strong while the 300-baht minimum wage increase would help stimulate purchasing power. As the consumer goods market in Thailand was likely to grow, he said Unilever had set plans to invest more in the country by building a plant to manufacture home utensils at Lat Krabang Industrial Estate. The new plant is worth 800 million baht.

In addition, Unilever will also set up a product distribution center in Chachoengsao province with investment of two billion baht. The company has set a target to make sales grow more than last year, which saw revenue of 40 billion baht or a 13% increase compared to 2011.

Fish stocks significantly rise after Gulf closure during egg-laying season

BANGKOK, 12 February 2013 (NNT) - The Department of Fisheries has reported an almost 2.5-fold increase in marine life in the Gulf of Thailand after 3-month off-limits to fishing trawlers during egg-laying season last year.

Director-General of the Department of Fisheries Wimon Chanthararothai said from February to May every year some parts of the sea in Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chumphon and Surat Thani are banned from fisheries in order to allow marine life to spawn, especially Pla Tuu or Scomber, which is the most popular genus of mackerels among Thais.

According to Mr Wimon, a survey on fish stocks in the Gulf of Thailand after the closing period last year shows that the prevalence of marine life increased by 2.34 fold compared to the month before the closure. As for pla tuu catches, the closing of the sea usually results in over 60,000 tons of catches in a year. The director-general said if the Scomber was allowed to grow further, the fish stock would be higher, creating good income for fishermen and providing sufficient fish for Thais to eat all year round.

This year the Department of Fisheries will declare the sea off Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chumphon and Surat Thani off limits to fishermen from 15 February – 15 May.

SME Bank restructuring strategy wins Finance Ministry’s support

BANGKOK, 12 February 2013 (NNT)-Mr. Pichai Chunhavajira, SME Bank chief executive officer, said the Ministry of Finance is satisfied with the Bank's financial restructuring plan to solve a major NPL problem.

Mr. Pichai said after his meeting with representatives from the Fiscal Policy Office and the State Enterprise Policy Office that the meeting discussed the restructuring plan, solutions to NPLs, an improvement of IT systems and a planned release of new loans.

According to him, the SME Bank’s rehabilitation plan has been well received and won support from the Minister of Finance. The IT system as well as organizational structure will undergo changes in line with the bank’s main responsibilities and in order to raise public’s confidence.

Mr. Pichai said further that the SME Bank will provide the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Industry with a monthly report on the progress of the rehabilitation strategy. He asserted that SME Bank executives had given their commitment to follow the strategy. They believed the bank would be able to hold its position as a mechanism to assist SME operators financially. He also denied a rumor that the SME Bank would merge with the Government Savings Bank.

Tak rose growers eagerly await Valentine’s Day

TAK, Feb 11 – Thailand’s largest rose-growing district, Pob Phra in this province, 425 km northwest of Bangkok, is eagerly waiting to cash in on Valentine’s Day when prices of the blossoms will double or even triple.

Chanyawat Somboonporn, a member of the Pob Phra Rose Growers Group, said one rose will sell for as much as Bt20 during what some people call feast of romantic love when young people buy roses to their loved ones.

Pob Phra rose planters normally supply cut flowers to Pak Klong Talad, the capital’s biggest and oldest wholesale market for fresh agricultural produce, and Si Mum Muang market in suburban Bangkok at Bt5-8 per piece and .40 satang each smaller roses with shorter stems.

She said rose growers have never been in the position to set the prices of their products while investment costs have been escalating.

The producer called on the government to pledge the prices of roses like other agricultural produce and promote Pob Phra district as a tourism attraction particularly during the Valentine festival. (MCOT online news)

Thai medicines penetrate ASEAN market, generating Bt80 mln revenue

BANGKOK, Feb 11 - Thai medicines have made headway into the ASEAN market, generating around Bt80 million in revenue last year as pharmaceuticals registered in the ASEAN region.

Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) Director Dr Vithit Attavechakul said Thailand has advanced in manufacturing medicines for chronic diseases which are widely exported to several ASEAN countries, mainly Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam.

Anti-viral drugs for AIDS, anti-diabetic, and anti high-blood pressure drugs are most popular among all medicines.

Dr Vithit said the popularity gained was because consumers were confident of the quality of Thai drugs which are standardised under the GPO and sold both in hospitals and drugstores.

He noted that GPO next week will negotiate with Indonesia's equivalent of the Food and Drug Administration to register Thai medicines there. There could also be a joint investment for medications manufacturing in Indonesia. (MCOT online news)


Farmers protest at GHB for non-performing loan inaction

BANGKOK, Feb 11 – About 3,000 farmers rallied at the Government Housing Bank (GHB) today, demanding the bank to cut non-performing loans (NPL) incurred by farmers and transfer them to the state’s rehabilitation scheme.

Kim-ung Pongnarai, coordinator of the Federation of Farmers Association Networks of Thailand, said farmers have repeatedly called on the GHB and several other state-operated banks to subtract the farmers’ NPLs the way most commercial banks did.

She said the NPLs could be transferred to the Farmers Rehabilitation and Development Fund (FRDF) to be further managed under conditions set by the fund and leniency to debtors.

Ms Kim-Ung said commercial banks have shifted their NPLs to the FRDF at a total value of Bt3 billion, involving 200,000-300,000 farmers. The combined NPLs at commercial banks, incurred by about 500,000 farmers between 2003 and 2013, are worth Bt60 billion.

State-run banks said they are not allowed by law to transfer their NPLs, Ms Kim-ung said, urging the government to amend the law to facilitate and equalise the financial leniency.

She said farmers’ debts should be slashed by half to enable them to repay the other half with the FRDF as practiced by commercial banks but state-owned banks took the farmers’ assets which were put as collateral for public auction.

State-run banks should hold their assets for 10 years, instead of six years, before subjecting them to auction, she said.

Other state-operated banks as mentioned by Ms Kim-ung included the Small- and Medium-Enterprises Bank, Government Savings Bank, Islamic Bank of Thailand and the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives. (MCOT online news)

Thai manufacturers to bypass red-tape export procedure

BANGKOK, Feb 11 – Thai exporters will join a self-certification system to deliver their products to Indonesia, Laos and the Philippines, a move recently approved by parliament to assist the Thai export sector, according to the Commerce Ministry.

Piramol Charoenpao, director general of the Trade Negotiations Department, said it would be the second pilot project after the first pilot programme was successfully launched for Thai exports to Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei.

Both pilot projects will be implemented in parallel until the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 with an objective to expand the project to all nine ASEAN member countries, she said.

Exporters must currently apply for the so-called Form D certification from a state agency, depending upon the export, which they find inconvenient.

Indonesia, Laos and the Philippines will launch self-certification systems next month while Thailand will start the scheme mid-year, she said. (MCOT online news)

Financial institutions impose stricter rule for personal loans

BANGKOK, 11 February 2013 (NNT) – According to a survey by the Bank of Thailand (BoT), financial institutions are imposing stricter rules on granting personal loans, after many clients are found unable to pay their debts.

The BoT conducted a survey on high-level executives from loan department of 25 commercial banks and financial institutions as well as from 24 non-bank credit entities in the first quarter this year.

The survey found that most executives believed the loan requests from large enterprises, SMEs, and households would continue to increase; while financial institutions would pose stricter rules on loans allowed for small businesses and households, on the concerns of their abilities to pay debts.

While some institutions are expected to grant more home loans as the competition is high; credit cards and personal loans are anticipated to be more difficult to get.

Govt works with private sector to fight public procurement corruption

BANGKOK, 11 February 2013 (NNT) - The Comptroller General’s Department, under the Ministry of Finance, has held an anti-corruption in the public sector meeting with the private sector. The meeting agreed on the use of an “Integrity Pact” to obligate project owners who are government units and bidders to cooperate for transparent and fair procurement.

The meeting, which took place on 8 February 2013, was chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong and co-chaired by Secretary-General of the Joint Standing Committee on Trade, Industries and Banking Pramont Sutheewong, who is also the chairman of the Anti-Corruption Network. The meeting focused on promoting cooperation between the government and the private sector on anti-corruption in public procurement under the principles of morality and law. The participants also considered guidelines for the implementation of anti-corruption campaigns.

The government gave high priority to the problem of corruption and considered it national agenda. The government encouraged the private sector and the public to take part in its public procurement process, Mr Kittiratt said.

The meeting also approved the “Integrity Pact,” a written agreement to be signed by government units and their bidders. The pact ensures that public procurement is conducted in a free and fair manner with third parties observing the procurement process.

Commerce Min: Goods price control measures to continue all year round

BANGKOK, 11 February 2013 (NNT) - The Commerce Ministry has revealed this year’s strategic plan, in which a number of activities under the Blue Flag and Took Jai Shop schemes will be organized to help lower the cost of living for Thai people.

Permanent Secretary for Commerce Mrs. Watcharee Vimooktayon said the Commerce Ministry plans to launch its caravan of affordable everyday items as frequently as 2,000 times throughout this year under the Blue Flag project, with a target to lower the cost of living for Thais by as much as 1.5 billion baht in total.

In the meantime, she affirmed that the ministry’s Took Jai Shop project will continue to offer products that are cheaper than those available in stores, helping Thai households save another 300-400 million baht a month on their daily expenses.

Additionally, the Permanent Secretary said her Ministry will also raise the standards of farm products and the standard of living for farmers, with the rice pledging scheme to remain in effect. The pledging scheme for 2012/2013 has so far accepted 9.8 million tons of rice grains while a total amount of 130 billion baht has been paid to participating rice farmers.

Gasohol consumption on the rise

BANGKOK, 11 February 2013 (NNT) – The Department of Energy Business reported a continued rise in gasohol demand as benzene 91 is expected to become unavailable by the end of March.

Director-General Viraphol Jirapraditakul said that refineries in Thailand have already halted the production of 91 octane petrol since Jan 1, 2013, but its sales have been allowed to continue until March to get rid of its stocks.

Mr Viraphol said orders for E20 petrol have risen from 1.4 million litres to over two million litres per day. He expected the gasohol consumption to reach 2.5 million by the end of this year. The domestic consumption of 95 octane petrol, or benzene 95, has also risen from 100,000 litres to one million litres per day.

The senior official predicted that the sales of 91 octane petrol should come to a complete halt nationwide in March, with existing stock at Bangkok stations projected to run out by the end of February.

Hat Yai lively with foreign tourists during Chinese New Year

SONGKHLA, Feb 10 - The Chinese New Year celebration in Hat Yai business district in this southern province has been lively, with throngs of Malaysian and Singaporean tourists shopping in the area, with around Bt300 million expected to circulate here.

Tourists Business Federation of Songkhla chairman Surapol Kampalanonwat said many tourists have flocked to Hat Yai during this festival because they were confident of security measures, and all hotel rooms were fully booked.

The God of Prosperity, or 'Cai Shen,' over 2.30m in height was also enshrined on Sanehanusorn Rd for people to pay homage to the deity in the heart of Hat Yai, amid tight security measures. (MCOT online news)

Bt400 million sought to cushion smaller Thai enterprises

BANGKOK, Feb 9 – The Thai Commerce Ministry is proposing to the cabinet next Tuesday an allocation of Bt400 million from the Foreign Trade Promotion Fund to help over 1,500 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) whose businesses have been severely affected by the sharp appreciation of Thai currency and the global economic crisis.

Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom said Bt300 million will be used to support SMEs in their overseas market expansion while Bt100 million will be set aside as an emergency fund, as proposed by the Foreign Trade Department.

If earmarked, the fund will assist more than 1,500 SMEs operators nationwide over a three-year period (2013-2015), he said.

Spending of the Foreign Trade Promotion Fund must be approved by the cabinet, as imposed by a decision in 1988.

The latest financial status of the fund is Bt4.2 billion, including capital and interest. Its annual interest is Bt100 million while the public and private sectors were granted loans of Bt2 billion each year.

The requested allocation of Bt400 million will be taken from the capital which will cut into its depleting reserves.

A working committee has been set up to find ways to increase the size of the fund while a move is being contemplated to seek the cabinet’s approval of a budget to inject into the fund. (MCOT online news)

PM Yingluck: “Thai economic outlook appears promising”

BANGKOK, 10 February 2013 (NNT) - Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is positive that the Thai economic outlook will continue to be promising, due to expanding domestic purchasing power and stronger foreign investor confidence.

PM Yingluck talked about the country’s economic growth outlook, during her weekly TV program on Saturday, saying many indicators have shown that Thai economy will likely continue to grow.

The Prime Minister attributed the country’s bright economic outlook to strong collaboration among relevant agencies and units to boost spending and investment while mitigating the impact of global risks.

Ms. Yingluck stated that the government is determined to push the local economy to grow in a sustainable manner and in accordance with its real potential.

Meanwhile, Deputy PM and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said that huge foreign investment inflows in stock and bond markets have led to the baht appreciation.

Mr. Kittiratt said that he has discussed with all related agencies about the solutions to ease the stronger baht.

He also reiterated that the Bank of Thailand is to make sure that the value of the Thai currency will be appropriate and acceptable and the central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) will implement suitable interest rate policy to control the baht direction.

Commerce Ministry to sell pledged rice supply through G2G deals in 2013

BANGKOK, 10 February 2013 (NNT) - The Ministry of Commerce is set to actively pursue direct rice sales with any government, which could be in need of more paddies, in its bid to efficiently manage supplies kept under the pledging scheme.

Permanent Secretary for Commerce Vatchari Vimooktayon said after a seminar on Thailand’s 2013 rice trade policy and strategy, held in Nakhon Ratchasima, that, in 2013, the Commerce Ministry is planning to sell the paddies stored under the state-initiated pledging scheme through a Government-to-Government deal, particularly with the countries that have high demand for rice.

Under this approach, Ms. Vatchari is confident that the ministry will be able to sell more than seven million tons of rice; the level that is higher than in 2012, through the deals that involve big volume.

The Permanent Secretary for Commerce also affirmed that both state and private warehouses, participated in the rice-pledging scheme, could store up to 30 million tons of rice, which are sufficient for the execution of the project.

For the 2012/2013 crops, Ms. Vatchari stated that around 9.8 million tons of rice have already been pledged with the government, which has paid over 132 billion baht to participating farmers.




Back to Main Page

Abhisit calls on govt to tackle adverse effects of 300-baht wage policy, claiming policy was first conceived by Democrats

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NESDB predicts Thai economy to grow by 4.5-5.5%, inflation at 2.5-3.5% in 2013

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Energy Ministry to expand NGV pipeline network across Thailand

SRT invests 234 mill baht to revamp JJ market

Central bank brushes aside allocation from national budget

Agriculture Min to continue egg price stabilization

Commerce Min to promote high-quality rice in Europe, Mideast markets

2,000 workers laid off due to 300 baht wage; 4,000 more could be on chopping block

PM Yingluck urges trade-related agencies to push for 9% export growth rate

PM unveils Southeast Asia’s biggest wind energy farm

Thai Islamic Bank asserts financial strength despite soaring NPLs

Finance Ministry pledges to keep a close eye on foreign fund inflows

Local SMEs affected by new daily minimum wage to receive more state assistance

Commerce Ministry appreciates France’s support for Thai-EU FTA talks

Low-cost carriers asked to fly to more destinations in ASEAN

Energy Ministry toughens law on LPG vehicle conversion

52,000 Thai workers lose jobs from minimum wage hike

Finance Ministry nods to SME Bank’s rehabilitation move

Unilever to invest more in Thailand

Fish stocks significantly rise after Gulf closure during egg-laying season

SME Bank restructuring strategy wins Finance Ministry’s support

Tak rose growers eagerly await Valentine’s Day

Thai medicines penetrate ASEAN market, generating Bt80 mln revenue

Farmers protest at GHB for non-performing loan inaction

Thai manufacturers to bypass red-tape export procedure

Financial institutions impose stricter rule for personal loans

Govt works with private sector to fight public procurement corruption

Commerce Min: Goods price control measures to continue all year round

Gasohol consumption on the rise

Hat Yai lively with foreign tourists during Chinese New Year

Bt400 million sought to cushion smaller Thai enterprises

PM Yingluck: “Thai economic outlook appears promising”

Commerce Ministry to sell pledged rice supply through G2G deals in 2013



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