PM vows to tackle high consumer prices

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BANGKOK, May 5 – Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Saturday pledged to tackle high consumer prices, while insisting some consumer product prices have gradually dropped since the beginning of the year.

The premier made remarks in response to public complaints on the rising prices of commodity products during her weekly televised address “Yingluck’s Government Meets People,” together with Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom and Permanent-Secretary for Commerce Yanyong Puangrach.

Ms Yingluck said consumer prices had risen due to last year’s nationwide flooding which disrupted product distribution. But the prices of some products have kept going down since the beginning of the year as the costs of raw materials at upstream areas earlier hit by flood have dropped as waters receded and the situation there returned to normal.

The problem, however, was at the so-called mid-stream level, which includes transportation, the premier said, due to rising global oil prices, resulting in higher costs of the products at downstream areas where consumers felt the higher prices. The price would eventually head downward, she said.

Ms Yingluck reiterated that her government was concerned about sentiment and money in the pocket of the public.

Regarding the oil price hike, the prime minister said prices were adjusted in accordance with the global market and the government has introduced relief measures to ease public burden including a freeze on oil fund contribution, subsidy on LPG for household use and promotion of alternative energy.

Ms Yingluck noted that the country is now in the process of rehabilitating from one of its worst floods in history, so some types of energy prices have yet to reduce in accordance with market mechanisms.

The commerce ministry has to consider how to reduce consumer goods prices, said the premier, adding the government was trying to respond to the needs of all groups of citizens, particularly low-income earners.

The premier said the government just extended relief measures, including free electricity, buses, water supply and train transportation, for low income earners as short-term measures and that it will find ways to help increase income for these people while launching more economic stimulus packages.

Commerce Minister Boonsong admitted the prices of some fresh products remained high, while most consumer product prices have dropped since last year.

Early this week, Prime Minister Yingluck argued that the public might have felt that consumer product prices were increasing overall as a result of psychological effects, despite the fact that the prices are actually going down.

The feeling might have stemmed from last year’s massive flood that spurred a price rise and even though prices have fallen, the public is not satisfied with the trend, she said.