By Orathai Sriring and Kitiphong Thaichareon
BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s central bank left its key interest rate unchanged for a second straight meeting on Wednesday, as expected, resisting government pressure to reduce borrowing costs to help revive faltering growth.
The Bank of Thailand’s (BOT) monetary policy committee in a 5-2 vote decided to hold the one-day repurchase rate at 2.50%, the highest in more than a decade.
It had raised the rate by 200 basis points since August 2022 to curb inflation. Two members voted for a cut of 25 basis points.
All 27 economists in a Reuters poll had predicted the BOT would the rate steady on Wednesday, while saying the first rate cut was more likely to come earlier than they expected.
“The current policy interest rate is consistent with preserving macro-financial stability,” the BOT said in a statement.
“Most members thus voted to maintain the policy rate at this meeting. Two members voted to cut the policy rate by 0.25 percentage point, to reflect a lower potential growth as a result of structural challenges.”
The central bank said it stood ready to adjust rates as appropriate.
It said the economy was growing slower than expected and would be supported by domestic demand, though structural impediments, particularly deteriorating competitiveness, would further hamper growth.
The baht was down slightly at 35.580 after the announcement.
The decision will be a disappointment for the government, coming a day after Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin called again for a rate cut to jumpstart Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, which he has described as in crisis, a depiction the BOT chief has rejected.
Srettha, who is also the finance minister, has been at loggerheads with the central bank over the direction of monetary policy, arguing the economy needed support amid negative inflation.
BOT Governor Sethaput Suthiwartnarueput recently told Reuters that monetary policy was “broadly neutral” and while growth would be slower than expected this year, the economy was not in crisis.
On Wednesday, the BOT lowered its 2024 growth outlook to 2.5-3% from 3.2%. The economy expanded 2.6% in 2022.
Consumer prices have fallen for four consecutive months year-on-year through January, driven by government energy subsidies, below the central bank’s target range of 1% to 3%.
The central bank said it saw headline inflation near 1% this year and saw inflation picking up in 2025.
(This story has been corrected to fix 0.25 basis points to 25 basis points in paragraph 3)
(Reporting by Orathai Sriring, Kitiphong Thaichareon, Chayut Setboonsarng and Satawasin Staporncharnchai; Editing by Martin Petty)
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