Source: Bangkok Post
More than two decades ago, the baht suffered heavy devaluation as a result of speculation, forcing Thailand’s central bank to de-link the local currency from the US dollar and adopt a managed floating exchange rate.
Fast-forward to the present and the baht’s value has become a challenge for the trade-reliant economy. This time the local currency’s strength is the issue, as opposed to drastic depreciation during the 1997 financial crisis.
The last time the baht’s value against the greenback touched 29 was in 2013. The currency appreciation irked many businesses and policymakers to the point that there was a public rift between Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong and former central bank governor Prasarn Trairatvorakul, as the latter did not acquiesce to the former’s demand to cut the policy interest rate to curb the appreciation.
The strong baht in 2019 is a result of Thailand’s massive current account surplus. The surplus, worth US$26.4 billion (797 billion baht) on a year-to-date basis as of September, stems from lower import value compared with export value, inflows of tourism revenue and near-record foreign reserves of about $222 billion.
Ample foreign reserves have made Thailand stand out as a safe haven to park capital, either for actual investment or speculation, amid the US dollar’s significant retreat, rattled by the shaky future of the global economy, the Federal Reserve’s monetary easing and a tit-for-tat trade dispute between the world’s two biggest economies.
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