Economists urge abolition of populist economic policies

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BANGKOK, Nov 19 – Thailand’s economic think tank has called on the government to halt its populist economic policy and focus instead on narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor.

Somchai Jitsuchon, research director of Thailand Development and Research Centre (TDRI), said Thailand urgently needs financial reform and a revision of the government’s populist policy including the rice subsidy programme.

The government has spent Bt150 billion each year for rice subsidies but only Bt35 billion reached the poor or the farmers themselves, while the remaining Bt120 billion went to government officials, rice mill owners and wealthy farmers.

Former finance minister Thanong Bidaya said the populist policy has failed to bridge the people’s income gap while the government’s financial allowance to the elderly is a “blanket scheme” which should be reviewed.

Not all elderly people who are entitled to the allowance are poor, he said.

Mr Thanong opposed the government’s proposed bill on borrowing for infrastructure development, saying it would be impossible to select appropriate projects under imposition of the law.

Kosit Panpiemras,  Chairman of TDRI Council of Trustees and Board of Directors, predicted Thailand’s economic growth next year at less than 4-5 per cent and said domestic consumption has declined since early this year.

The government’s populist policy and loans spending to stimulate the economy are effective only in the short term but it is a risk to the country’s financial status in the long run, he said.

He said Thailand has lagged behind many countries based on a World Economic Forum report which ranked the country at 66th among 148 countries on education, and 78th on technological readiness.