By The Nation
"This year will definitely see more improvement," he said in an interview on Nation TV’s Kom Chad Luek programme late on Tuesday. "Last year’s growth was 0.8 per cent. This year’s is expected to reach 4 per cent. But some groups of people may not perform satisfactorily because of their accumulated debts. It’s a prolonged problem, which takes time to solve."
This year, private investment will begin to take off, while the government has been accelerating implementation of its infrastructure projects, including roads and double-track railways, to generate employment, he said.
In response to concerns over external and internal factors, particularly last weekend’s explosions in central Bangkok, Pridiyathorn expressed confidence that the military’s ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) could handle such situations. The government may need to explain to investors that the bombing was not severe, while warning everyone not to think negatively.
Though the World Bank has expressed concern over the Thai economy, he stressed that the country’s fiscal position and foreign reserves were in good shape.
"We concede that in the first half of last year, Thai economic growth was negative but improvement began in the second half. Since the [current military] government took office, thousands of factories have been opened after we solved the licence-approval problem. More factories mean more employment, and this reflects more investment and improvement in economic figures," Pridiyathorn said.
He also conceded that household debt had continued rising, as Thais have been cautious with their spending, particularly through credit cards. He has asked commercial banks to handle the situation on expectations of seeing an improvement by the third quarter of this year.
Responding to concerns that the junta was trying to consolidate its political power through the proposed "digital economy" laws, Pridiyathorn said this was a misunderstanding. He said he welcomed the opposition to these bills as the government would take the criticisms into consideration and make adjustments. There are two sets of bills, one regarding the proposed digital economy and the other seven on tightening cyber-security.
He also insisted that the junta would not seize control of media frequencies.