ADB to lend Thailand USD1.5B to aid virus response

BANGKOK (AP) — The Asian Development Bank (ADB) announced yesterday it will provide a USD1.5 billion loan to Thailand to aid its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Thailand’s Cabinet approved the borrowing plan at its weekly meeting, Deputy Government Spokeswoman Ratchada Thanadirek announced separately. The loan agreement is expected to be signed by representatives of the multilateral bank and Thailand’s Finance Ministry by the end of this month.

The loan is being provided under the ADB’s COVID-19 Active Response and Expenditure Support Programme.

“It will help restore growth and set the stage for targetted private sector operations by ADB to support the government’s post-COVID-19 recovery, including priority areas such as infrastructure, trade, and supply chain finance,” the bank said in a statement.

Interest on the loan is set at the six-month LIBOR rate plus 0.5 per cent. In addition, Thailand must pay 0.15 per cent per year as a commitment fee, which locks in the lending terms as long as there are undisbursed funds.

“The borrowing is a part of the THB1.9 trillion (USD61.1 billion) scheme approved earlier to stimulate the Thai economy,” Ratchada said. “The Finance Ministry projects that the local monetary market will be more volatile in the near future. Local businesses will borrow much more to shore up their situation; meanwhile the government will also need take action to pop up local economy.”

She said the government’s ratio of foreign currency debt to total public debt is still low. Consequently, the Finance Ministry proposed the plan so the government will not dry up the local money pool and instead leave it to the private sector which is in need of cash.

The ADB said it forecasts that Thailand’s economy will contract by 6.5 per cent in 2020, compared to its December 2019 projection of 3.0 per cent growth.

“ADB is committed to providing timely support to Thailand and helping reduce the pandemic’s social and economic impacts on the country,” ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa said in the bank’s statement.

“Our budget support will help fund the government’s relief packages, which aim to better prepare the country’s healthcare system for possible future waves of COVID-19; protect the vulnerable; support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in industries most affected by the outbreak such as tourism and manufacturing; and provide overall economic stimulus.”