Thailand: GDP growth meets expectations in Q4
February 20, 2017
Thailand’s economy activity was broadly steady in the fourth quarter of last year as fiscal stimulus lifted domestic demand and counterweighed uncertainty regarding the country’s leadership. As market analysts expected, GDP increased 3.0% year-on-year in the last quarter of 2016, a slight slowdown from Q3’s 3.2% rise. In 2016 as a whole, the economy grew 3.2%, an acceleration from 2015’s 2.9% expansion, yet the economy is lagging behind most of its ASEAN peers.
Domestic demand picked up steam in Q4 and increased 3.2% (Q3: +0.2% year-on-year), as government consumption rebounded and fixed investment accelerated, offsetting a slowdown in private consumption. Private consumption expanded 2.5% year-on-year in Q4 (Q3: +3.0% yoy), as the wide-spread mourning period after King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s death in October dragged on consumer sentiment. Fixed investment grew 1.8%, a solid acceleration from Q3’s 1.0%, fueled by another strong rise in public investment as the authorities extend their efforts to accelerate economic activity. In fact, government consumption rebounded and increased 1.5% after a 5.2% contraction in Q3, reflecting among other stimulus plans a large rice subsidy scheme aimed at supporting rice farmers, who form a large share of the population in the military-skeptical north of the country.
On the external side of the economy, exports of goods and services decelerated on the back of a slowdown in tourist arrivals related to the mourning period. (Q4: +1.1% yoy, Q3: +1.4% yoy) Conversely, imports jumped 3.4% on an annual basis, the highest reading in almost four years and after five consecutive quarters of contractions, reflecting the improvement in domestic demand.
Despite losing some steam in Q4, Thailand’s economy is showing encouraging signs, in particular the government’s commitment to support activity. In fact, in January the government announced supplementary fiscal stimulus of USD 5.4 billion for this year’s budget, mainly for infrastructure projects, in a bid to boost growth in rural areas and win votes ahead of upcoming elections.