Mekong Monitor: Thai economy shrinks for the first time since 2014
Photo credit: AFP
TRADE, ECONOMY, AND INVESTMENT
Thai economy shrinks for the first time since 2014
(18 May 2020) Thailand’s economy shrank for the first time in six years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has shuttered borders and devastated the tourism-reliant country. Data released on 18 May by its economic planning agency showed a nearly 40% drop in tourist arrivals in the first three months of 2020, compared with the same period last year. This decrease has resulted in the economy shrinking by 1.8% year-on-year in January-March. The kingdom has not seen a contraction since 2014 when it was brought to a standstill by political riots that led to a coup two months later in May. The drop in new COVID-19 cases has fuelled hope for an economic recovery as the government gradually loosens restrictions on shopping malls, restaurants and public spaces.
Cambodia lifts ban on the exports of paddy, white rice and fish
(17 May 2020) The Cambodian government has announced that the ban on the export of paddy, white rice and fish to international markets will be lifted starting on 20 May. The decision was made on 15 May, after an announcement was made to allow for the export of white rice. It overturns a ban implemented in early April to ensure food security and price stability in the country during the COVID-19 outbreak. Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng said that the export of paddy, white rice, and fish would help to partially offset the economic slowdown in the services sector, especially in the tourism sector.
Laos eases COVID-19 lockdown by opening schools, resuming domestic travel
(18 May 2020) Laos reopened its schools on 18 May and resumed inter-regional travel after nearly two months of COVID-19 lockdown. The country currently has a total of 19 cases, 14 of which have made a full recovery, while five are still hospitalised. Having been in lockdown since 1 April, Laos has had no new cases for 36 days as of 18 May. Schools have reopened for classes and exams at the primary, lower and upper secondary levels while all other students will continue to take their classes remotely. Businesses including restaurants, shops, and beauty salons, have been permitted to resume their work. Several modes of transport services between regions in the country have resumed activity as well.
Myanmar’s rubber export income falls US$30 million between October 2019-April 2020
(19 May 2020) Myanmar exported 114,000 tonnes of rubber worth over US$140 million at the end of April 2020, of its current financial year which began on 1 October 2019. The amount showed a decline of around US$30 million compared with the same period of the previous financial year, according to the Ministry of Commerce. Rubber prices currently range between US$0.64 – US$1.32 (900 kyat -1,850 kyat) per viss (a viss equals 1.6 kg) depending on the quality and variety. According to the Myanmar Rubber Planters and Producers Association (MRPPA), the fall in rubber export is due to falling demand and difficulties in trade related to the COVID-19 pandemic while the volatility of the price of rubber is linked to global climate change.
Vietnam consumers optimistic amid COVID-19
(17 May 2020) Consumers in Vietnam appear to be some of the most optimistic, among Asian countries surveyed, that their country will overcome the challenges of COVID-19, according to a McKinsey mid-April consumer survey. Only 4% of Vietnamese consumers surveyed believe the pandemic will have a long-lasting impact on the economy and create a lengthy recession. This is in comparison to 6% in Indonesia, 16% in the US, and 24% in South Korea. This optimism, together with the country’s head start on recovery, is expected to play a crucial role in shaping the country’s new reality. Of the more than 600 respondents from Vietnam, 47% believe the economy will rebound within two to three months and will then grow at a similar or even faster rate than before the pandemic.
About Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS)
The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Economic Programme was launched by the Asian Development Bank in 1992 connecting five developing ASEAN countries, namely Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand, and Chinese provinces of Yunnan and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous region. The region has some of the most robust economies sharing the Mekong River Basin thanks to its reform and liberalisation. The subregion is growing at a faster pace than the whole of East Asia and the Asia Pacific as the GDP growth rate for 2017 was at 6.4 percent, according to the World Bank. The population at the subregion as of 2016 is at 340 million while the GDP at PPP is at US$3.1 trillion in 2016. In 2015, trading within the region was at US$444 billion.