Tue, 08 Mar 2005

From: AFP

Tha grows 6.1% in 2004; bird flu, drought, oil trims performance

Thailand's economy expanded 6.1 percent in 2004 despite drought, bird flu and high oil prices slowing growth in the last quarter, officials said on Monday.

"GDP in the fourth quarter or 2004 increased 5.1 percent, decelerating from 6.1 percent growth in the third quarter," the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), the government's economic advisory body, said in a statement released by its secretary general Ampon Kittiampon.

Gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2004 was slightly lower than the government's forecast of 6.2 percent. Thailand's GDP growth in 2003 was 6.9 percent.

At the start of 2004, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra predicted a growth rate of eight percent but conceded in June that he had been overly optimistic.

The country was hard hit by a succession of unforeseen problems, including bad weather, an outbreak of bird flu which left 12 people dead and severe violence in the Muslim-dominated south which has claimed more than 620 lives since the beginning of last year.

"The slowdown of growth was caused by the drought, the return of avian flu and the continually rising oil prices," Ampon said in the statement.

The NESDB said a key factor was a 4.9 percent contraction in the agriculture sector, mainly due to a fall in crop output because of drought and a fall in livestock production due to bird flu.

However, it also pointed to a slowdown in manufacturing, transport, communication, hotel and restaurant growth.

The government said in November that Thailand's poultry export industry -- one of the world's biggest -- had lost up to 80 billion baht (US$2 billion) in revenue since the start of the avian flu outbreak in late 2003, representing a 1.2 percent loss in national earnings. -- AFP