Commerce Minister hits back at World Bank

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BANGKOK, Oct 9 – Deputy Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan yesterday defended Thailand’s against the World Bank’s criticism on the government’s rice subsidy, saying the two-year pledging scheme for farmers cost the state only Bt200 billion.

Mr Niwatthamrong, who is concurrently commerce minister, was referring to a recent statement by the World Bank that the Thai government incurred heavy loss from the rice purchase scheme.

He said budget allocation for the rice subsidy programme was Bt330 billion per year with an allowed loss of not more than Bt100 billion annually and that the combined loss during the last two years was Bt200 billion.

He said Thai rice is still in great demand in many countries and that the Thai government signed a memorandum of understanding with China last week to sell 1.2 million tonnes of rice.

The agreement will definitely be signed this month, he said.

Mr Niwatthamrong ruled out a report that the government would have only Bt230 billion in its circulating fund for rice purchases in the 2013/2014 crop, standing firm that the Cabinet has approved Bt270 billion for this year’s rice subsidy.

The Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) said earlier that a circulating fund of Bt230 billion would be allocated for rice purchase in the new harvest.

“I don’t know where the BAAC got this information. Please rely on data and information of the Commerce Ministry and Finance Ministry,” he said.

The Commerce Ministry will boost promotion of OTOP products, particularly textiles, clothing and souvenirs to the global market next year.