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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs           9   July  2011

Business questions growth goals

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Business leaders have expressed concern over possible adverse impacts from sudden economic policy reversals and the aggressively pro-growth strategy of the new Pheu Thai-led government.

Chanin Vongkusolkit, chief executive of the mining company Banpu Plc, said he was "frightened" by some of the reports he was hearing. Reducing Oil Fund levies collected on fuels, for example, would make fuel artificially cheap, encouraging waste and discouraging people from using alternative fuels, he said.

"If the government implements its policies quickly, the private sector may not be able to adjust. This may cause losses," he said.

As the president of the Listed Companies Association, Mr Chanin said he welcomed the corporate tax cuts proposed by Pheu Thai, but he expressed concerns about its plans for big wage increases.

Pheu Thai has proposed a nationwide minimum wage of 300 baht a day -50-90 percent higher than current rates which vary by province. As well, it says bachelor's degree holders entering the job market should get starting salaries of 15,000 baht a month. Many entry-level positions now pay less than 10,000 baht.

"[The corporate tax cut is] good news. Actually companies are waiting for this," he said at an economic forum held by Kasikornbank yesterday.

"But for the wage hike to 300 baht a day, we need to see whether the increase will affect employment. There should be a balancing point for that.

"The government should talk to private sector. There are hundreds of thousands of companies out there that will be affected. If we don't ask them about something that will affect them, it may be a problem."

Small and medium-sized companies would be affected a lot by large wage increases because interest rates are also on the uptrend, he added.

Mr. Chanin said the Thai economy had been boosted by rising commodity prices in the last two years and continued growth was expected.

Economic growth in a range of 4-5 percent annually as seen in recent years is more suitable for Thailand instead of 8 percent envisioned by Pheu Thai, he added.

Mr. Chanin also said the government should focus on political and social reconciliation, a view echoed by Piyasvasti Amranand, the president of Thai Airways International Plc.

"The government can carry out populist policies, but just make sure we don't turn into Greece or Portugal," he concluded.

Banthoon Lamsam, the CEO of Kasikornbank, said the local economy was expected to expand further, but he cautioned the new government to carefully spend the fiscal budget to support the many populist policies it promised during the election campaign.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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