【英语财经】军事戒严令给泰国经济造成更大压力 Martial Law Another Strain on Thailand’s Economy

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2014-5-20 16:30

小艾摘要: Thailand's past decade of political upheaval has strained society, but the economy has by and large kept on humming. Until now, perhaps. News this week the economy shrank 0.6% on-year in the first qu ...
Martial Law Another Strain on Thailand's Economy
Thailand's past decade of political upheaval has strained society, but the economy has by and large kept on humming.

Until now, perhaps. News this week the economy shrank 0.6% on-year in the first quarter and by 2.1% from the final quarter of 2013 has shaken the belief that Thailand's economy is somehow immune to political fighting on the streets of Bangkok, the capital.

The imposition of martial law on Tuesday adds to concerns over the economy.

Previous bouts of instability have had surprisingly muted impacts. In 2010, anti-government protests brought Bangkok to a standstill for three months, ending in an army crackdown that killed scores of people.

At the time, economic growth slowed, to 6.6% on year in third quarter from 9.2% in the second, but still a strong clip.

During 2006 -- when former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was removed in a military coup, laying the seeds of the current dispute -- and 2007, which saw bombings around Bangkok and school burnings in rural Thailand, the economy didn't skip a beat, with quarterly growth ranging from a low of 4.4% to a high of 6.1%.

Thailand's economy contracted for four straight quarters from late 2008, but it's difficult to separate out the effects of political protests that fall -- which included the temporary takeover of Bangkok's airport -- from the global economic turmoil that followed the Lehman Brothers collapse that year.

So, what's different this time? For one, the current turmoil has lasted seven months, longer than other periods of upheaval. And there's no end in sight.

The military on Tuesday imposed martial law to stop protests spilling over into violence. It denied the action was a precursor to a coup, providing little clarity on how the crisis can be resolved. Elections tentatively scheduled for July 20 seem unlikely to go forward after the country's Election Commission recently said the situation was too chaotic for a vote.

The turmoil, although largely contained in Bangkok, has pushed Thai consumer confidence to a 12-year low. Vehicle sales are expected to plunge by a quarter this year. Monday's GDP data showed broad-based weakness that spanned consumer demand, investment and even exports.

Even Thai officials are concerned. The government repeatedly has lowered its growth targets since the crisis began, and on Monday cut them again -- to 1.5%-2.5% for this year, well off Thailand's trend pace. And that may not be the last revision.

'As protests have become more frequent over the last few years it has undermined investor confidence, undermined Thailand's competitiveness,' Capital Economics analyst Krystal Tan said.

Nor is Thailand in a position to counter the downturn with public spending. Economists had been betting on multi-billion-dollar outlays on rail projects and other infrastructure to lift the economy. But these are on hold because Parliament isn't functioning, meaning the nation's budget is stuck.

Some observers saw a silver lining to the imposition of martial law on Tuesday if it helps break the impasse between Thailand's governing party and the opposition.

'It may even help to break Thailand out of the political deadlock of the past six months, by which the two sides have failed to agree on arrangements for new elections,' said Andrew Colquhoun, Fitch Ratings' head of Asia-Pacific sovereigns, in a statement.

Others point out that Thailand is still known as an easy place to do business for foreign investors, with solid infrastructure and supply chains. 'That will not change about the country,' Barclays Capital analyst Rahul Bajoria said.

Still, the longer the turmoil persists, the bigger the risk as investors put off plans to open factories in Thailand. Foreign direct investment fell to 262.6 million in February, its lowest level in eight months and much lower than monthly levels over $1 billion for most of the past year.

'The worry for Thailand is that foreign investment flows suffer a kind of permanent or persistent hit,' said Tim Condon, an economist at ING in Singapore.

Analysts for now are waiting to see how martial law plays out, and what upcoming data show. Trade data is due Friday and industrial production on May 28.

Other parts of Asia recently have seen an uptick in exports as recovery in the West begins to show up in terms of stronger demand. Monday's GDP data showed trade was a net positive for Thailand's growth in the first quarter, but that was mostly because imports fell so sharply as domestic demand languished -- a Pyrrhic victory for trade.

'So far trade figures for the rest of the region have been quite positive. Let's see if Thailand is going to see that too,' Capital Economics' Ms. Tan said. 'If it doesn't, then it seems like all engines are down.'

AP
泰国过去10年的政治动荡导致社会局势紧张,但该国经济继续蓬勃发展。

或许应该说迄今为止泰国经济蓬勃发展。本周的数据显示,第一季度泰国经济同比下滑0.6%,较前一季度下滑2.1%,该数据动摇了有关泰国经济一定程度上免受政治斗争影响的观点。

周二实施的戒严令则加重了围绕经济的担忧。

之前的不稳定因素出人意料地并未造成明显影响。2010年发生的反政府抗议导致曼谷实施紧急状态三个月,最终军方的镇压行动造成数十人死亡。

当时,泰国经济增长放缓,第三季度经济同比增速由第二季度的9.2%放缓至6.6%,但依然强劲。

2006年,泰国前总理他信(Thaksin Shinawatra)在一次军事政变中被迫下台,给目前的争端埋下隐患;2007年,曼谷附近发生爆炸事件,泰国农村的学校也发生纵火事件。但这两年间,泰国经济并未停滞,季度经济增速从4.4%至6.1%不等。

2008年末以来,泰国经济连续四个季度下滑,但很难区分是受当年秋季的政治抗议行动(包括曼谷机场被短暂占领)影响,还是受当年雷曼兄弟(Lehman Brothers)破产后的全球经济危机所影响。

那么,这次有什么不同?首先,当前动荡局势已经持续了七个月,比其他动荡时期更长,而且目前还看不到尽头。

泰国军方周二宣布实施戒严令,以防止示威抗议发展成暴力活动。军方否认这一举动是政变的先兆,几乎没有阐明如何能够解决危机。鉴于泰国选举委员会(Election Commission)近日称当前局势过于混乱,无法举行选举,原定于7月20日的大选似乎也不太可能进行。

尽管当前震荡局势在曼谷已经基本上得到控制,但仍导致泰国消费者信心指数降至12年低点。预计今年汽车销量将大幅下滑四分之一。周一公布的国内生产总值(GDP)数据显示,消费者需求、投资甚至出口都普遍出现疲软情况。

泰国官员也对当前局势甚为担忧。自危机爆发以来,泰国政府多次下调了经济增长目标,周一宣布将今年经济增长率目标再次下调至1.5%-2.5%,远低于泰国趋势水平。而且这可能还不是政府最后一次下调目标。

凯投宏观(Capital Economics)分析师Krystal Tan表示,由于过去几年示威活动越来越频繁,投资者信心和泰国的竞争力已经遭受打击。

泰国目前也无法利用公共支出来应对下滑局面。经济学家们此前押注,泰国将用数十亿美元投资铁路项目和其他基建项目来提振经济。不过由于议会不起作用,也就是说泰国预算无法动用,这些项目都被暂缓。

如果周二实施的戒严令能够有助于打破泰国执政党和反对派之间的僵局,一些观察人士认为这是一线希望。

惠誉国际评级(Fitch Ratings)亚太主权评级部门主管科洪(Andrew Colquhoun)在一份声明中说,戒严令甚至可能有助于泰国打破持续了六个月的政治僵局,在此期间执政党和反对派未能就新选举有关安排达成一致。

其他人指出,对海外投资者来说,泰国依然可以被称作是一个很适合做生意的地方,有可靠的基础设施和供应链。巴克莱(Barclays)的分析师Rahul Bajoria表示,动荡不会改变泰国的基本情况。

不过,动荡持续的时间越长,投资者推迟在泰国设立工厂的风险就越大。2月份外国对泰国直接投资降至2.626亿美元,为八个月来最低水准,也远远低于过去一年多数时间逾10亿美元的月度水准。

荷兰国际集团(ING)驻新加坡的经济学家康登(Tim Condon)称,围绕泰国的担忧在于外资流入受到永久性或持续性的冲击。

目前分析师正在等待观察戒严令将起到什么作用,以及即将公布的数据表现如何。泰国贸易数据定于周五公布,工业产值数据定于5月28日公布。

由于西方经济复苏带动需求走强,近期亚洲其他地区出口出现回升。周一公布的国内生产总值(GDP)数据显示,贸易对泰国第一季度经济增长净贡献为正值,不过很大程度上是由于国内需求萎靡导致进口大幅下滑,这可以说是损失惨重的胜利。

凯投宏观的分析师Tan表示,迄今为止,亚洲其他地区的贸易数据表现都相当强劲。市场拭目以待泰国贸易表现是否也会回升。如果泰国贸易数据未改善,那么似乎意味着所有的增长引擎都已熄火。

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