Thai finance ministry maintains 2023 GDP growth outlook, sees more tourists
Maintains 2023 GDP growth outlook at 3.8%, cuts 2022 estimate
Raises 2023 foreign tourist forecast to 27.5 mln from 21.5 mln
Cuts 2023 export growth forecast to +0.4% from +2.5%
Sees average baht strengthening, inflation easing this year
Adds details, official's comments
By Orathai Sriring and Kitiphong Thaichareon
BANGKOK, Jan 27 (Reuters) -Thailand's finance ministry on Friday maintained its economic growth outlook for 2023 at 3.8%, helped by a rebound in tourism and domestic demand, but an official said exports would slow down this year.
Southeast Asia's second-largest economy likely expanded 3.0% in 2022, down from a previous forecast of 3.4%, as exports, public investment, and private consumption slowed, Pornchai Thiraveja, head of the ministry's fiscal policy office, told a briefing.
Official gross domestic product (GDP) figures for 2022 are due to be released next month. In 2021, GDP grew 1.5%, among the lowest rates in the region.
"The economy continues to recover, with 2022 growth returning to pre-COVID levels... therefore, fiscal measures will only be used as necessary and will be targeted," Pornchai said.
"The tourism sector has picked up steadily as the world has relaxed international travel measures," he added.
Thailand's economic recovery has lagged that of other Southeast Asian nations, with the crucial tourism sector just starting to rebound last year with 11.15 million foreign tourist arrivals.
Since the new year began, Thailand has booked 1.34 million foreign tourists.
The country is expected to receive 27.5 million foreign arrivals this year, up from 21.5 million projected earlier, helped by China's reopening, Pornchai said.
The government is expecting at least 5 million Chinese visitors this year, about half of the figure in pre-pandemic 2019.
Overall foreign tourist arrivals reacheda record of nearly 40 million in 2019, with spending at 1.91 trillion baht ($58.07 billion). Tourism accounted for about 12% of GDP.
However, exports ,another key driver of growth, could increase just 0.4% this year, rather than rise2.5% as projected earlier due to a global slowdown, Pornchai said.
A stronger baht THB=TH is not helping exports. The ministry predicted the baht to average 32.5 per dollar this year after 35.07 last year, as Thailand is among countries that are expected to have a continued economic recovery, Pornchai said.
Average headline inflation is expected at 2.8% this year, Pornchai said, down from a 24-year high of 6.08% last year, which was far above the central bank's target range of 1% to 3%.
($1 = 32.89 baht)
Reporting by Orathai Sriring, Kitiphong Thaichareon and Satawasin Staporncharnchai
Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor
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