ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Yingluck admits rice subsidies need revamp if re-introduced
BANGKOK, Feb 6 – Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has blamed the House dissolution for disrupting payments to farmers under the rice pledging scheme but brushed aside criticism of the programme’s failure.
Regarding widespread protests by farmers who demanded overdue payments for the rice they have sold under the scheme, she asked for sympathy to agencies in charge of assisting farmers and said the law bans a caretaker government from financial engagement that could pose a burden to the new government.
She told reporters yesterday that it would take more time to help farmers given restrictions the caretaker government has encountered and the Finance Ministry was finding financial sources to pay farmers.
“The rice scheme is pending an investigation by the National Anti-Corruption Commission. We have to wait for the commission (before taking further action),” she said.
She said the ruling Pheu Thai Party, if re-elected, may adjust the rice scheme in the wake of public criticism.
On its Facebook page yesterday, the Pheu Thai Party said the rice scheme was aimed at improving farmers’ living condition and the three-year programme has been beneficial to 3.26 million farming families.
“It’s not a populism policy. The government will hold on to its principle to help Thai farmers. We hope financial institutes are aware of farmers’ plight,” the party said.
The Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) announced that it would extend farmers’ debt payment terms for six months, and offer new loans to those who need money for rice farming in the new planting season.
The BAAC has paid almost Bt60 billion to farmers for rice in the latest crop.
Meanwhile, two senior officials of the Public Warehouse Organisation were interrogated by Udon Thani police yesterday concerning 34,000 sacks of rice, worth Bt80 million, which disappeared after being moved out of Udon Thani warehouse for rice mills in Lop Buri on March 5-26 last year.
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