PM shrugs off doomsday warning on rice scheme

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BANGKOK, Oct 3 – Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra assured today that she was not disturbed by her economic chief advisor’s objection to the government’s rice pledging scheme.

Virabongsa Ramangkura, who is also Bank of Thailandchairman, warned that the government will be doomed if it proceeds with the widely-criticised scheme.

The former deputy prime minister and finance minister said it is difficult to scrutinise the graft-plagued pledging procedure.

Ms Yingluck said everybody has the right to express concern while the government has to explain advantages of the scheme for farmers.

She insisted that the rice pledging scheme will boost farmers’ income and stimulate the country’s economy.

“Everyone is aware that the prices of Thai rice do not reflect the real market value. This is because the quality of Thai rice is high,” she said. “The government does not aim at making profit from the scheme or rice sales.”

The premier added, “Problems and obstacles are common when we start something new. We are collecting information to find proactive and defensive solutions.”

Commerce minister Boonsong Teriyapirom, assigned to find measures to assist rice exporters affected by the scheme, said deputy prime minister Chalerm Yubumrung will lead a team to investigate corruption in the pledging procedure, an allegation widely raised by politicians, academics and rice exporters.

He said the commerce ministry has sold more than seven million tonnes of rice to various countries on government-to-government basis.

Compared to the previous government which spent Bt80 billion for the rice scheme, the Yingluck government’s programme is reasonable, he said, adding that the country’s total rice production is over 30 million tonnes while the government has pledged only 20 million tonnes.

Much rice is in circulation in the domestic market, he said.