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Nation Analysis: High defense spending at expense of education, welfare

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Nation Analysis: High defense spending at expense of education, welfare | The Thaiger

THE CONTROVERSIAL submarine deal has sparked public debate about the way the Thai Defense Ministry spends tax money on military hardware and other national-security projects. Many question whether such projects should take priority over education, public healthcare or improving the lives of the country’s millions of poor.

Since the coup in 2014, the budget allocated to the Defense Ministry has increased substantially. For the fiscal 2015 national budget, the first fully controlled by the junta, the ministry’s budget jumped to192.9 billion baht from 184.7 billion baht the year before. The defense budget was again raised substantially to 203.7 billion baht in fiscal 2016 and 221.7 billion for 2017.

Somchai Jitsuchon, research director at the Thailand Research Development Institute, says the priority should be solving the wide income gap between the rich and poor. Over the past three years, the junta-backed government has not put enough effort or resources into dealing with this issue, he notes.

According to the National Economic and Social Development Board, income disparity remains severe in Thailand. The top 10 per cent of earners got 35 per cent of total income in 2015, while the bottom 10 per cent got only 1.58 per cent. Meanwhile, the top 10 per cent own 60 percent of the country’s land while the bottom 40 per cent own only 1.2 per cent.

Low-income groups also cannot access high-quality education or healthcare services.

“Priority should be given to creating life opportunities for the poor,”Somchai says.

The Education Ministry often gets the biggest share of the annual budget, but highly talented teachers are hard to find, as most of them teach at elite schools in Bangkok. Moreover, a typical school does not have adequate educational materials to facilitate effective learning, so pupils end up in rote learning, which delivers poor performance in math and science and impairs a student’s ability to create, analyze and think.

Supachai Panitchpakdi, former chief of the World Trade Organisation, says Thailand should gain regional bargaining power by offering assistance to neighbouring countries. He praises the Neighbouring Countries Development Cooperation Agency, which over the past 12 years has granted soft loans to support infrastructure projects in seven countries.

He is concerned that Thailand and, even more so, richer countries are preoccupied with an arms race.

Sakon Waran-yuwattana, dean of Thammasat University’s faculty of economics, says he is worried about the benefits of arms purchases, as such hardware bought in the past at high cost was often unusable. “This is because there is no independent auditor supervising or evaluating the outcomes of [defense] spending. Other ministries also face a similar issue,” he laments.

Auditor-General Pisit Leelavachiropas, however, has tried to defend the purchase of a Chinese-made submarine, saying the Chinese government ‘guarantees’ that it will function properly.

Other key concerns are future obligations made by the Defense Ministry. For example, under the 2017 fiscal budget, total future obligations are now 105.5 billion baht, including the 13.5-billion submarine deal, on which instalments will be paid until 2023. The first payment of 700million is to be made this fiscal year.

The junta is now drafting the fiscal 2018 national budget, with initial plans to allocate 222.4 billion baht to the Defense Ministry, accounting for 7.7 per cent of the total 2.9-trillion baht government outlay.

— The Nation



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Thailand

Average hotel prices drop in Thailand in 2018

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Average hotel prices drop in Thailand in 2018 | The Thaiger

The latest Hotel Price Index (HPI) released by Hotels.com reveals no sign of a slowdown for the global travel industry. Prices are up for overnight accommodation by 3% globally in 2018 across every regional index, except for the Pacific region, including Thailand.

Hotel.com has 85 websites in 34 languages, and lists over 325,000 hotels in approximately 19,000 locations. Its inventory includes hotels and B&Bs, and some condos and other types of commercial lodging.

Travellers to and around Thailand paid an average price of 1,720 baht a night for their domestic accommodation last year, a 7% drop compared to 2017, and paid the same average price of 4,437 baht a night for international accommodation in both 2018 and 2017.

The growth in travel comes despite global uncertainties including Brexit, California wildfires, South African drought and Japanese earthquakes. Travellers also showed resilience and renewed confidence in destinations touched by unrest: Paris, Egypt, Turkey; regions experiencing currency fluctuation: South America; and areas affected by natural disaster: North America.

Despite the overall growth in global accommodation prices, average prices paid for domestic accommodation in Thailand have decreased, with average prices for international beds remaining stable.

SOURCE: The Nation | Hotel.com

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Thailand

Thailand is ‘least miserable’ country in the world again

The Thaiger

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Thailand is ‘least miserable’ country in the world again | The Thaiger

Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha says he’s delighted over Thailand’s rating as the “least miserable” economy in the latest Bloomberg Misery Index. The annual Misery Index is calculated as the sum of a country’s inflation and unemployment rates.  The index compares the average of economists’ forecasts for each country.

The US moved six places to 13th least miserable and the UK improved four spots to 16th least.

Thailand scored 2.1 in the 2019 Index, which was the same score it received last year, making it the “least miserable” country out of 62 economies as rated by Bloomberg. Switzerland improved to second least miserable. Venezuela was rated the “most miserable economy” with inflation projected at about six million percent this year.

But Bloomberg says that Thailand is often rated least miserable due, in large part, to its rather unorthodox way of counting employment as well as their low fertility rate and aging population.

The Bank of Thailand lists Thailand’s unemployment rate at 0.9 percent and inflation at 1.1 for last year.

Thailand is 'least miserable' country in the world again | News by The Thaiger

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Bangkok

Summer storms leave 6,900 homes damaged this month

The Thaiger

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Summer storms leave 6,900 homes damaged this month | The Thaiger

More than 6,900 houses, mostly in a patch through the central-north regions of Thailand, have been hit by summer storms since the beginning of April, according to the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department.

Chayapol Thitisak, the director-general, says the department has received reports that 6,940 houses in 1,010 villages in 307 tambon of 115 districts had been damaged by storms since April 5. Twenty-nine provinces have been affected.

He said nine villagers were reported injured during the period as a result of storm damage.

Chayapol said his department has coordinated with Army bases and government agencies concerned to provide help to the affected villagers.

The summer storms, quickly developing tropical storm-cells, are prevalent this time of the year, usually when cooler air from China starts to interact with the rising south-western monsoon. They can be quite violent, sudden and bring strong winds, torrential rain and even hail.

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