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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        11  January 2011

Firms support Thai government scheme

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Amid some criticism that the Thai government's Pracha Wiwat welfare scheme is just a plan to gain votes in the coming election, businesses are hailing the initiative, saying it at least helps cut the cost of living for low-income earners.

However, they also warn that budget abuse could prevent the assistance from reaching its target recipient.

The Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) chairman said yesterday that the government must create a mechanism that ensures all of the funding will reach its target recipients, particularly taxi drivers, motorcycle taxi drivers and street vendors, all of whom are now subject to relatively high "kickbacks" to several groups including officials.

The government is also being urged to accelerate small-scale lending or microfinance services for low-income earners so they can pursue their own careers while addressing their long-term unorganised debts.

Dusit Nontanakorn, president of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, agreed but urged authorities to develop a database of those participating in the scheme so they can be closely monitored afterward.

Mr. Payungsak argued the measure offering free electricity to households using less than 90 units a month should be short-lived, given the steep subsidy involved, as much as 30 billion baht a year.

Mr Payungsak also called on the government to give more time to businesses, particularly small ones using liquefied petroleum gas, before floating the LPG price, as plans to do so for the industrial sector will hit local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) the hardest.

The government intends to continue to cap the LPG price for the transport and household sectors in line with the Pracha Wiwat scheme but is committed to floating it for the industrial sector. Prasert Bunsumpun, the chief executive and president of PTT, said the LPG price should not be fixed for more than a year, given the rising costs of his industry.

Thailand has fixed the prices of LPG and compressed natural gas (CNG) for more than a decade now.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

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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