ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Pols make pitch to farmers
It was the first time that leaders and key members of major political parties had a debate, which was hosted by the People's Network for Elections in Thailand (PNet)
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva pledged to continue income guarantees for farmers. The scheme has proved beneficial to large numbers of farmers and the government does not need to stock rice in silos, said Abhisit, who is also leader of the Democrat Party.
He claimed the scheme did not distort the ricetrading market, so exporters could buy local produce at reasonable prices.
His rival, Yongyuth Vichaidit, leader of the Pheu Thai Party, vowed to resume the price pledging scheme for rice. He claimed it meant farmers would get higher prices than under the Democrat regime.
Supachai Jaisamut, a spokesman for the Bhum Jai Thai Party, promised to forgive the debts of farmers who had borrowed money through village funds. He said that without debt, farmers could move forward and improve living standards.
Piyaphan Champasut, a key member of the Chart Thai Pattana Party, sold voters a nationalreconciliation plan. He claimed political conflict would prevent a new government from working efficiently and could hold back the potential of the economy.
Goanpot Asvinvichit, a leading member of Chart Pattana Peua Pandin, said he would turn a battlefield into a trading area, referring to the border with Cambodia that has seen conflict in recent months. He also said Thailand had the potential to develop the tourism industry to bring in more income.
Meanwhile, observers are worried about political risk and the possibility of a delay to the new government forming.
Sompop Manarungsan, an economist at Chulalongkorn University, said political parties could take as long as one or two months after the July 3 election to form the new government, which would delay new public investments.
The next fiscal year will start on October 1, and the new government is expected to hurry to push through a new budget bill for Parliament's approval. But many observers believe the budget bill will not be passed until after October.
Sompop said political confrontation was unlikely to be resolved soon. He said political parties did not have medium and long-term policies, as most of them had short-term policies designed to boost consumption and grab votes.
Moreover, the new government may not be stable and would possibly be unable to implement megaprojects, such as expansions to the mass transit system in Bangkok and the nationwide rail system, he said.
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