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Thai PM announces economic strategies

THAILAND'S Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva announced measures yesterday to battle the country's economic woes, which include unemployment expected to rise to at least 1 million this year.

Abhisit, who survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament on Saturday, said the government was launching an intensive job training program, would introduce several more economic stimulus packages and borrow funds from foreign lenders for infrastructure projects.

Thailand has been hit with the worst economic downturn since the 1997 Asian financial crisis, which put about 1.4 million Thais out of work. The National Statistical Office reported that 540,000 workers were out of jobs at the end of last year.

Speaking at the launch of a job training program yesterday, Abhisit said that he anticipated unemployment to rise to at least 1 million in 2009, a rate of about 2.5 percent.

He said the program will teach computer, service industry and other skills to selected candidates from the ages of 18 to 60. They may also received funds to start businesses after the courses.

"It will help restructure the economy in our country," he said. "The economic structure in many provinces will expand and grow."

The government was also planning to launch several more stimulus packages and next week plans to propose borrowing 70 billion baht (US$2 billion) from foreign lenders to invest in roads, water resources, education, transportation and health care.

Over the next three years, Abhisit said the government planned to invest about 1.4 trillion baht in these and other mega-projects including high speed trains.

Thailand's economy in the first quarter is expected to be equal to or worse than the fourth quarter of last year, when it contracted by 4.3 percent.

"The political situation has become more stable. The international community understands our country better. But right now I still cannot be happy because we still have to solve a lot of economic problems," Abhisit said.


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