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Yingluck government slow to respond to flood crisis

Posted by arnon_k On October - 15 - 2011

The flood crisis has hurt the Yingluck Shinawatra government, with critics saying it underestimated the problem, says a Post Today analyst.

When her Pheu Thai party was in opposition last year, the party criticised the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration for its slow response to that year’s floods.

Plodprasop Suraswadi, deputy party leader, spoke in the House of Representatives on Oct 30, 2010.

”The government must help affected flood victims quickly,” he said.

”A centre must be set up to coordinate donated items and relief work and the prime minister must personally chair and issue orders from the centre. The operation must be carried out transparently.”

Now Pheu Thai is in government, facing the same problem but on a greater scale.

No one can predict when the crisis will end. People in Bangkok have been warned to prepare for floods from tomorrow to Tuesday when run-off from the North will meet the high tide from the sea and even more rain.

The high tide will arrive again at the end of the month and there might be more tropical storms as well.

This year’s flood crisis covers about 59 provinces.

Floods have practically inundated the whole of Ayutthaya province, moving to Pathum Thani, Nonthaburi and are now on the verge of flooding eastern Bangkok’s Lat Krabang, Min Buri and Nong Chok.

Ms Yingluck has admitted Bangkok might be flooded while Bangkok governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra has warned residents to prepare for possible widespread floods.

The damage to the people’s property, agriculture and industry could reach over 100 billion baht.

During last year’s floods, the Pheu Thai Party criticised the Abhisit government for being ill-prepared and unable to help people promptly.

Now the criticism has come back to haunt the government. The floods began nearly two months ago as Ms Yingluck and her team took office.

The government did not pay much attention to the flood problems as the government relied on bureaucrats in the provinces to deal with the situation.

The government adopted the so-called ”Bang Rakam Model” for tackling floods, when Ms Yingluck visited Bang Rakam in Phitsanulok to inspect the floods there.

For the past two months, the Yingluck government has been occupied more with transferring bureaucrats and implementing policies.

Only when the floods began to inundate several provinces in the Central Plains and threatening Bangkok did the government begin to treat the problem seriously by establishing a flood relief operation centre at Don Mueng airport.

Justice Minister Pol Gen Pracha Phromnok is directing the centre, with acting permanent secretary of the interior Phranai Suwanrat as his deputy.

Science and Technology Minister Plodprasop heads the relief operation.

It is strange that provincial governors _ who are close to the people and well positioned to respond to their needs _ work under Interior Ministry and yet Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Yongyuth Wichaidit does not have a role at the centre, notes Post Today.

Admitting the government was slow to respond, Mr Plodprasop told one TV programme that: ”We came late, but better than not at all.”

Ms Yingluck, meanwhile, told a national telecast that the floods were much worse than originally thought.

Mr Plodprasop said the government under-estimated the volume of water travelling from the North, which flooded Nakhon Sawan, Sing Buri, Ang Thong, Ayutthaya and Pathum Thani.

The government would adjust its strategy from fighting the torrent to evacuating people to higher ground.
Floods cut GDP growth

The floods have caused extensive damage and affected about 2.38 million people, says Post Today.

Forecasters can’t agree on the scale of the damage.

The Bank of Thailand and the Finance Ministry estimated the damages at 60 billion baht or about 0.6% of GDP.

The National Economic and Social Development Board put the damage at 89 billion baht, while Kasikorn Thai’s Research Centre believes the figure is as high as 120 billion baht.

Three large industrial estates in Ayutthaya are now under water.

Several other industrial estates in Ayutthaya, Pathum Thani and Samut Prakan are under threat. It is inevitable the floods will affect GDP.

If the factories submerged by floods cannot recover this year, next year’s GDP will also be hit.

Millions of farmers are also badly affected as their cash crops will be under water for several months.

They will be heavily in debt, resulting in lower domestic demand for goods and services.

Tourism will begin its high season in November.

If the floods do not recede by then, another important economic engine will stutter.

Meanwhile, large sums earmarked for investment by the government will be diverted to reconstruction, depressing the investment climate.

Growth, initially forecast at 3.5-4%, may contract to 3%, which means the government’s revenue collection will be below target, affecting the country’s fiscal position. The government’s public debt will worsen.

Deputy Prime Minister Kittirat Na Ranong said the government may have to revise its budget to improve water management infrastructure, which means money has to be diverted from projects elsewhere.

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