Since the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) seized the administrative power from the interim government on May 22nd, several pending national issues have been addressed. The controversial rice pledging scheme payment was among them.
On May 26th, the junta announced its intention to pay rice farmers simultaneously throughout the country, the move shortly confirmed by the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) which also assured the public the process will be quick and transparent and will be finished by June 22nd.
Soon after the payments began, farmers participating in the scheme were united in action to give thanks to the junta for its help to speed up the payment.
Similarly, civil servants from the Cooperatives Promotion Department stationed in various provinces gave a number of consumer items to soldiers in their gesture of thanks for helping farmers receive their payments in the rice mortgage scheme.
A few days after the payments were made, sales of agricultural equipment in general stores surged, as rice farmers now have enough funds to purchase necessary farming essentials such as fertilizers, seeds, and other tools f or use in the next planting season. The Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC) on May 30th expressed a belief that the rice pledging payments will boost the Thai economy, saying the injected money would be circulated in Thailand’s economic system thereby creating two or three times the financial impact higher than its original value.
The TCC gave an example that if the money paid to farmers under the scheme was 1 hundred billion baht, it would be circulated and create a total value of two or three hundred billion baht. That amount plus the money that will be spent at the time of the World Cup Soccer event by football fans in Thailand would generate at least 0.5 per cent growth to the economy.
The Fiscal Policy Office (FPO) is contemplating on adjusting its GDP forecast up from the current rate of 2.6 percent after seeing that the long pending payment of the rice support program has been effectively solved by the coup makers.
The same sentiment is also echoed from the private sector which recently expressed confidence that the Thai economy would grow more after the BAAC gives the overdue payments to rice farmers.
It must be noted however that the approval of the payment has attracted numerous loan sharks to collect debts unfairly from farmers who had earlier resorted to borrow money from these illicit financial sources.
Fortunately, the NCPO immediately recognized the issue and has issue an official instruction on Thursday May 29th to forbid debt collectors from intimidating rice growers who owe them money.
The NCPO indicated non-traditional loans are illegal, and lenders involved with such loan provision must legalize their action by producing a loan document indicating an interest rate permitted by the law. If the debtor fails to repay the loan, the creditor shall have the police proceed with the case.
The farmers who just recently received the payment are warned to become a target of robbery. Farmers are warned not to carry a lot of cash with them, as many muggers are looking for an opportunity to steal from those who have waited so long to receive their payments.
According to the BAAC, during May 26th – May 31st the bank had paid 34.7 billion baht to 345,000 farmers. The sum was part of the 40-billion-baht budget the bank had allocated from its liquidity fund. The bank expected the allocation would be exhausted within June 5th.
However, the BAAC stated the the Public Debt Management Office under the Ministry of Finance would be in charge of seeking a loan of 50 billion baht to pay for the remaining debts the government owes to farmers, while reassuring farmers that payment would still be completed within June 22nd.