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PM defends performance in ‘challenging’ first year

Posted by Rattana_S On September - 25 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

PRIME MINISTER Yingluck Shinawatra finally delivered her administration’s first-year performance declaration to Parliament yesterday, stressing that the period was filled with challenges and problems on many fronts, ranging from politics, society and natural disasters to the global economic downturn.

The premier defended her numerous official trips abroad, saying they were aimed at restoring investor confidence in Thailand and fostering greater investment and economic ties with foreign friends.

Since the government came to power in 2011, it has sought to pursue three key policies – rebalancing the economy to strengthen fundamentals, fostering national reconciliation on the basis on equality and preparing the country for integration under the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.

Up to 70 per cent of the economy is dependent on exports so a stronger domestic consumption base needed to be built, while the gap between the rich and poor needed to be narrowed.

This was partly achieved by giving people greater access to capital and pushing for a seven-year major infrastructure investment programme including high-speed train routes.

However, the global economic outlook remains volatile and complex. Spending on flood-prevention measures has led to the cutting of budgets for some ministries although advent of the AEC should help boost trade and tourism.

Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said employment remained stable with a low unemployment rate and the introduction of a Bt300 minimum wage at the beginning of the year “went well”.

Appropriate measures have been introduced to expand the tax base and reduce farmers’ debts. Prices of 42 commodities remained under government control and the prices of 140 more commodities have been temporarily frozen.

“The reduction of company taxes has led to the private sector being more honest in their tax payments,” he said, adding that the first-car policy also enabled a million people to own a car, which was an important asset, and boosted their quality of life.

Opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva presented a starkly different view of the government’s 12-month performance, arguing that the administration had failed the people. He said independent figures pointed to Thailand losing competitiveness in all areas.

Petrol prices also became more expensive than what the government promised, causing hardship among the public, while the first-car and first-home schemes failed to boost the real economy. They had led instead to increasing debt.

“The prime minister must rethink how the economy is managed, because populist projects do not work and cannot strengthen the economy. It also created more risk,” he said.

Fiscal discipline was also necessary, he added.

Yingluck defends her choice of discoloured jacket

Posted by Rattana_S On September - 15 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday defended her sartorial choice to wear a partly discoloured green Thai silk jacket on her visit to Italy’s fashion capital of Milan by saying her new style was rather “accidental”.

The picture of the premier with the jacket while walking down the plane’s staircase has caused a stir on Thailand’s netizens, and received both positive and negative reviews.

The premier yesterday posted her view on Facebook stating: “I arrived in Milan and had the chance to wear a tailored jacket with silk fabrics from [Her Majesty the Queen’s] Arts and Crafts International Centre of Thailand [in Ayutthaya]. It was flooded in 2010 and led to the different colours seeping onto the fabric thus creating a new pattern that I wear today.”

The discoloured patches were on the premier’s right jacket pocket, the jacket’s left arm and near the right side of the lapel.

The PM was to give an opening speech at a seminar entitled: “The Italy-Thailand Business Forum: Commercial and Investment Opportunities for Italian SMEs” where an exclusive roundtable discussion involving leading Italian executives took place. That was followed by a visit to a showroom of furniture-maker Poltrona Frau.

Her sartorial choice led to intense debate with some saying it’s inappropriate for the premier on an official visit, adding that it may diminish Thailand’s image, while others praised her for her good and novel taste that turned out to be beautiful. The premier is known to be a fashionista.

The prime minister is on a European tour to Switzerland, Italy and Montenegro and is scheduled to return to Thailand today.

Explain why costs are up, Democrats say

Posted by Rattana_S On September - 2 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

THE OPPOSITION Democrats have demanded the government postpone increasing the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), electricity and expressway fees – reasoning its decision contradicts the ruling party’s election campaign promises to sharply reduce the cost of living.

Democrat Atavit Suwannapakdee said the Yingluck government had run the country for two years and the country’s economic indicators have all shown negative results – such as rising public and household debt and price rises.

He said the government had decided to increase the price of three major items yesterday that would further push up the cost of living: LPG has risen from Bt290 per 15 kg cylinder to Bt380; electricity prices have increased seven satang per unit (meaning families who use about 500 units would have to pay Bt40 more each month); and the expressway toll has been increased by Bt5.

“Today is Bad Day or an unlucky day for Thais because it is the day we must significantly shoulder higher costs of living,” he said.

Atavit quoted the Thai Chamber of Commerce’s Centre for Economic and Business Forecasting that since the Yingluck government took office in 2011, household debt has jumped from Bt159,432 to Bt188,774 in 2013. The Public Debt Management also showed that public debt in the first quarter of 2011, which stood at Bt4.2 trillion, jumped to Bt5.2 trillion in the second quarter of 2013, increasing by Bt1 trillion.

“These figures do not include the Bt2 trillion in debt that the government wants to push for the development of infrastructure,” he said.

Democrat Bangkok MP Sansern Samalapa said the Bank of Thailand pointed out that the country’s economic indicators for every sector all show negative results, except the tourism sector.

“The downtrend will continue into August because of the negative momentum. We urge the government not to manage the economy by lip service or by giving lame excuses…” he said.

Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit said the party would assign MPs on Monday to explain to the |public about the price increases of LPG, electricity and expressway tolls.

Pat on back for reform

Posted by Rattana_S On August - 26 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Participants say forum is move in right direction but warn govt must move quickly towards roadmap

The political reform forum kicked off yesterday with a sense of cautious optimism despite the

conspicuous refusal by the opposition Democrat Party to attend along with most other anti-government forces. After hours of meeting, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra proposed the creation of three reform committees to look into political, economic and social reforms.

No name has been announced yet but the PM’s Office Ministry will host future activities, with another meeting to be held in a month’s time. Letters of invitation will be sent to opposition parties again.

Yingluck cited seven key factors as major concerns at the end of the meeting. They are: Strengthening democracy, economic disparity, transparency and accountability, justice and basic rights, democratic participation, creating a climate of trust and forgiveness, and public interests.

Sixty-five high-profile people from politics, academia, business and people’s movements attended the five-hour forum, but were given less than 10 minutes each to speak.

Many lauded the forum yesterday, which was initiated by the prime minister, but also acknowledged difficulties as most anti-government forces have effectively boycotted the efforts.

“We genuinely want to see a roadmap [for the future],” said PM Yingluck after the first two hours of the meeting. “This forum is open to all sides.” Yingluck said she seeks to jointly come up with a vision for the future of Thai politics and society and will take all previous studies and recommendations made by various groups and commissions into consideration and quickly implement those that have broad-based consensus.

House Speaker Somsak Kiatsuranont said: “Thais have no time to fight with one another any longer, but we only talk about it and end up fighting again.”

Former premier Banharn Silapa-Archa advised that those who were not present should be invited again to join the next round and suggested that both sides “take a step back”.

Wuthisarn Tanchai, deputy

secretary-general of King Prajadhipok’s Institute, said Thai society is plagued by distrust, but added the forum marked a good beginning as there’s now a venue to talk about problems.

Bhum Jai Thai Party leader Anuthin Charnvirakul, the only leader from an opposition party to join the forum, said: “We will oppose when the government does something wrong. As for the political reform forum, I think what the government is doing is right. It’s not for the success of the government but for all Thais.”

Kittipong Kittayarak, permanent secretary of the Justice Ministry, warned that the challenge lies in how the forum can win the trust of all sides and to not let it be dominated by any side. “Those who did not join today should not be regarded as having missed the train.”

Former coup-leader Sonthi Boonyaratglin, who ousted then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the elder brother of Yingluck, in 2006 and is now leader of the Matuphum Party, said he is happy to be a part of the process and insisted that Thai democracy must remain “Thai-style” and not a facsimile of other nations’ systems. Sonthi added that poverty and a lack of quality education hamper Thai democracy.

Chairperson of the red-shirt Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship Thida Thavornsaet Tojirakarn warned that the effort will not bear fruit if people have no part in the process. She said the challenge is how to materialise equality amongst citizens, particularly political equality, and added that the root of political conflict is the conflict between the conservative elite and those who fight for democracy.

The only scathing view at the forum came from Teerapat Serirangsan, chairman of the Political Development Council, who warned: “If in three months there’s nothing, this forum is finished.”

The only senior figure linked to the opposition Democrat Party was former leader and former House Speaker Bhichai Rattakul, who joined in his personal capacity. Bhichai said he wanted to see a roadmap for Thailand’s future and expressed confidence that conflicts could be reduced if people could envision a common future.

He added that Malaysia used to be behind Thailand but it has a long-term roadmap and is now ahead of the Kingdom.

Former president of the Constitutional Court, Kamol Thongthammachart, also supported the idea of coming up with a roadmap.

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