Thailand’s newly appointed Prime Minister, Srettha Thavisin, faces the challenging task of fulfilling his campaign promises to revive the economy, support small businesses, boost household incomes, and tackle inequality. After months of political uncertainty following a general election, Srettha, a real estate tycoon, has secured parliamentary support to lead an unlikely coalition government.
Thailand’s economic performance presents immediate challenges for the new leader. The country reported a growth rate of only 1.8% in the April-June period, well below economists’ forecast of 3.1%. The central bank chief cited weaker exports due to China’s slowdown and reduced tourism spending as contributing factors. High household debt and rising interest rates have also dampened domestic consumption.
Despite the formation of a new government, Thailand’s market has shown mixed reactions. The main stock index rose slightly, but the baht weakened against the dollar. Analysts suggest that while short-term improvements may occur, investor sentiment will be influenced by factors like the formation of a cabinet and policy execution.
Budget Challenges and Promises
One of Srettha’s immediate challenges is to construct a budget of 3.35 trillion baht ($95.96 billion) for the fiscal year 2024. This task was delayed by the outgoing administration, causing setbacks in new investment projects. Implementing campaign pledges such as economic growth targets, handout schemes, and wage increases will also require navigating military alliances that support his government.
In his first 100 days in power, Srettha must address pressing economic issues, including reducing living expenses and private sector costs, supporting the tourism industry, and accelerating budget disbursements. His ability to deliver on promises and steer the economy will be closely watched by the public and investors alike.
The challenges facing Thailand’s new prime minister highlight the complexities of translating campaign promises into concrete policy actions, especially in an economic landscape impacted by both domestic and global factors.