ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Income gap- Thai government priority
‘‘I believe entrepreneurs would be more willing to increase minimum wages and help make life better for low-income earners if they could get lower interest rates,’’ says Mr Kittiratt.
Mr. Kittiratt, who oversees economic policy under Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, affirmed that the government would announce the 300-baht minimum wage policy in Parliament next week and carry it out early next year.
"I would like to say on behalf of the government when it delivers its policy statement in Parliament that workers will enjoy incomes not lower than 300 baht a day on the basis of skills and productivity," he said.
The policy would cover around 8.4 million workers, including 5.3 million Thais, 1.9 million registered foreign laborers and others who are not registered.
Mr. Kittiratt, who is also the commerce minister, said Thailand had the opportunity to achieve double-digit export growth every year, with exports a major driver of annual economic growth of 4-7 percent. However, other sectors should also start making larger contributions to the economy.
The rich-poor divide is not unique to Thailand although the disparity here is wider here than in many countries. Mr. Kittiratt noted that even in the United States, 1 percent of the population controlled 22 percent of the country's wealth in 2008, compared with 17 percent of the wealth 15 years earlier.
The response in the United States was to make it easier for low-income people to obtain loans but this resulted in the creation of a huge sub-prime lending market which imploded in 2008. He said that Thailand, like most other developing countries, had many people with low access to credit and less income to spend for the necessities of life.
"If workers can get wages of 300 baht a day and they work every day, they will earn 9,000 baht a month. I would like to ask those who are executives if they believe that with that amount, can those workers live with dignity as human beings? The answer for me is not yet."
Mr. Kittiratt said he wanted entrepreneurs, bankers and traders to jointly seek solutions with the government in order to create a much better living for low-income earners.
He said the government would soon conduct a survey among civil servants and state agency employees who earn less than 15,000 baht, and would lift salaries to that level.
He hopes businesses will respond to a call to increase their minimum wages once the government enacts measures to help them including a promised reduction in corporate taxes to 23 percent next year and 20 percent in 2013 from 30 percent now and helps ease the burden of high oil prices.
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