Democrats slam government’s rice pledging scheme


BANGKOK, Aug 16 – The 2013 budget bill debate in the House of Representatives enters its second day today after Thailand’s opposition Democrat Party strongly criticised the government for the failure of its rice price pledging scheme and said the policy was plagued with corruption.

On the first day of resumed parliamentary debate on Thailand’s 2013 Budget Bill on Wednesday, Democrat MPs severely attacked the government’s rice pledging scheme and other agricultural produce. They called on the government to reintroduce the already-scrapped scheme of a rice price guarantee.

Democrat MP Varong Dejkitvikrom from Phitsanulok province said the policy was aimed at helping farmers but farmers could not sell their paddy at 15,000 baht per ton as projected by the government.

Corruption has been rampant and the deputy prime minister’s order to deploy police forces at rice mills to keep an eye on malpractice is meaningless, he said.

But Pichet Chuamuangpan of the ruling Pheu Thai Party challenged the opposition to spearhead a no-confidence debate against the commerce minister over the scheme.

And Democrat MP Ong-art Klampaiboon called on the government to boost its budget to fight corruption and focus more attention to the issue.

Democrat Party deputy leader and former finance minister Korn Chatikavanij criticised the government’s position, saying the policy to slash corporate income tax to 23 per cent  this year and 20 per cent  next year, down from 30 per cent, would cost the government about Bt150 billion.

Deputy Prime Minister/Commerce Minister Kittiratt Na Ranong defended the policy, saying that it aims to boost Thai corporations’ competitiveness as the 30 per cent rate is higher than that of most ASEAN nations.

The three-day budget bill debate will proceed article by article and is scheduled to end Friday.