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Thai business council calls for government support to ease virus impact

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s business advisory council will urge the government on Monday to deploy support measures for farmers and small- and medium-sized businesses as the coronavirus pandemic drives Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy toward a recession.

The central bank has forecast the economy to shrink 5.3% this year for its the weakest performance since the 1998 Asian financial crisis, as the pandemic could bring losses of more than $40 billion and up to 10 million jobs..

Key steps include cash handouts of 15,000 baht ($461.82) for each farm household, a one-year moratorium on debt, and a fund of 50 billion baht to boost farm output, the panel of government and business agencies said in a statement.

It will also push for lower social security contributions by smaller firms, three-time tax deductions on spending, and financial support for lay-offs, among other measures, it added.

The measures are to be presented to the prime minister later on Monday, council chairman Thosaporn Sirisumphand, who also heads the state planning agency, told reporters.

“Several measure are being worked on by relevant agencies and could be implemented immediately,” he said. “Some others will need further discussions.”

The government has introduced billions of dollars worth of measures to cushion the impact of the virus, with the king approving its $58-billion economic plan on Sunday.

Thailand, which has reported 2,792 virus infections and 47 deaths, has imposed a night curfew, having closed malls and banned passenger flights to limit spread of the disease.

(Reporting by Orathai Sriring, Kitiphong Thaichareon, Satawasin Staporncharnchai; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)