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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Healthcare funds in intensive care; Govt caves in on rice; Secret Deep South talks; Supercar probe: DSI IDs BMW

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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Healthcare funds in intensive care; Govt caves in on rice; Secret Deep South talks; Supercar probe: DSI IDs BMW | The Thaiger

– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Govt urged to find new funds for health security
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Given the rising cost of the country’s healthcare costs, prominent health economists yesterday urged the government to seek alternative financial sources to support medical insurance schemes.

Collecting tax from the sale of unhealthy food products such as fast food and soft drinks – as well as from airfares and luxury products – would be a potential source of financing for the healthcare funds, according to International Health Policy Programme Thailand director Dr Phusit Prakongsai. He was speaking at a seminar titled “New Thoughts for Thailand’s Health Security System” at the Thailand Development Research Institute.

He said Thailand in the near future would need a lot more funds for medical services, as it now faces new healthcare burdens such as an elderly population increase and the rising number of patients suffering from road-accident injuries, non-communicable diseases, diabetes, alcohol-related illnesses and HIV/AIDS.

These healthcare burdens require a lot of money to invest in health promotion and prevention programmes for communicable and non-communicable diseases, he said.

“The government should play a pro-active role in handling these health burdens,” he said.

To date, the government has spent only 5 per cent of the total healthcare budget for health promotion and prevention programmes.

In 2004, the Thai government spent Bt100 billion to provide medical services to 48 million National Health Security Fund members and Bt25 million for the Social Security Scheme to provide health benefits for 9.9 million subscribers.

The government also spent Bt61 billion to support the Civil Servant Medical Benefit covering 4.4 million people.

Meanwhile, prominent economist Ammar Siamwalla suggested the government should collect tax from medical services provided to foreign patients via private hospitals, in order to use this tax money to support healthcare schemes and medical personnel. He said private hospitals benefited from the government’s medical manpower.

TDRI scholar Duenden Nikomborirak urged the government to harmonise the management of the country’s three national healthcare schemes, to handle rising healthcare costs and to reduce the bag of medical services among these schemes.

For example, the basic essential medical services for all Thais should be provided and managed by the National Health Security Fund, she said, while the extra medical services – such as receiving medical services at private hospitals or compensation for maternity leave for eligible subscribers – should be provided by the Social Security Fund and Civil Servant Medical Benefit Fund.

Rice back at Bt15,000
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The Yingluck government has given in to pressure from farmers by maintaining the Bt15,000 per tonne pledging price for the second rice crop in the 2012/13 harvest year. But it has left the price for the next harvest year open for a cut.

After the National Rice Policy Committee meeting yesterday, Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said the decision was based on the finance available, as well as the well-supported stockpile release plan by new Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisal.

But the price for next year would be reset, taking the global market and forex rate moves into consideration. The price would be announced some time ahead of the next harvest year, so farmers can make a decision if they want to grow more rice or switch to other crops that could generate more cash.

“This is in line with the government’s agricultural zoning scheme, to promote other economic crops like sugar cane,” he said, adding that Thailand still needs an additional 30 million tonnes to satisfy demand from the sugar and biofuel industries.

In the latest harvest year, Thai sugar cane output hit a new record high – over 100 million tonnes. Other possible crops are rubber and palm oil. Under the zoning scheme, lists of crops suitable for each area will be announced as a guideline to farmers.

Thai Agriculturist Association chief Wichian Puanglamjiak said farmers should be consulted before the government possibly reduces the minimum price. And the government should also help farmers by reducing prices of fertiliser, seed, insecticide via subsidies or reduction in tariffs, along with government loans with lower interest.

The government has been under huge pressure over the past week from farmers to maintain the Bt15,000 price for 100 per cent paddy rice, at least until the end of the 2012/2013 harvest year. Earlier, the rice committee resolved to revise the second-crop price to Bt12,000 per tonne, to limit losses.

Stockpile releases to ‘create room’

Kittiratt said yesterday there was room to accommodate the change based on Agriculture Ministry data that the second-crop output is only 2.9 million tonnes. Plus, based on a talk between Niwatthamrong, his deputy Yanyong Phuangrach, plus Foreign Trade and Rice Department officials and exporters, stockpile releases should improve in the second half of this year and the proceeds would support the current price without hurting fiscal discipline. Even with the old price, the cost of the pledging scheme, which involves some 22 million tonnes of rice, would be within the Bt345 billion target for the harvest year.

“We’re in the condition that we can still take care of farmers while concurrently upholding fiscal discipline,” he said.

Taking the new job yesterday, Yanyong unveiled a plan to release more than four million tonnes of rice from July-September so the government can cut its spending on rice stocks and get money to send to the Finance Ministry. The release price should be more flexible – in line with the market or about US$500 a tonne of white rice. They would allocate big lots to major consuming countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines, but may not strike government-to-government deals with buyers. They could allow private exporters to handle the stocks, as they were more efficient. Stocks from pledging amount to 17 million tonnes.

Yanyong and Niwatthamrong also vowed to reduce corruption, and boost transparency and flexibility in rice selling to rebuild the ministry and country’s image.

Niwatthumrong said: “Handling the rice project is one of my priority tasks. The ministry will consider a price that can help farmers, as well as ensure that Thai rice exports can compete and sell in the world market. Rice pledging and releasing should be more transparent. I will look for ways to prevent corruption under the project.”

The government is under pressure to release rice and cut associated losses. But doing this now will mean losses. The cost, insurance and freight price of Thai 100-per cent polished rice is now quoted at around $500 per tonne (Bt15,000), above $450 from Vietnam and India. After losing over Bt130 billion in 2011/12, it has vowed to keep the annual loss below Bt100 billion.

But storing rice further may incur problems. Old stocks requiring heavy use of anti-pest chemicals, which has led to negative reports.

Some consumers have complained that old and possibly contaminated rice was sold in supermarkets. Lab tests are underway. And one Thai exporter was named in a US warning that related to 70 countries

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Points deduction system for drivers to be introduced mid-December

The Thaiger



Points deduction system for drivers to be introduced mid-December | The Thaiger

The point deduction system, for traffic and road infringements, is tentatively scheduled for activation for motorists and motorcyclists in mid-December. It is hoped that the system will help reduce road fatalities and injuries on Thai roads.

The deputy commander of Highways Police Command says that every licensed driver will be given an allocation of 12 points. Each time the driver commits a traffic law violation, points will be deducted. When there are no points left, the driver’s license will be suspended for 90 days, after which the driver or motorcyclist will have to undergo training administered by the Land Transport Department to get their licence back, and another 12 points.

Those who don’t attend the training, however, will have their licence returned after 90 days, but with only 8 points.

Points to be deducted differ, depending on the offence. Offences are divided into four categories:

• One point deduction

Using a cell-phone while driving; exceeding the speed limit; not wearing crash helmets for motorcyclists; not wearing seat belts; not giving way to emergency vehicles, riding on the sidewalk and not stopping for pedestrians on zebra crossings.

• Two points deduction

Running a red light; driving on the wrong side of the road; reckless driving; driving while his/her license is suspended and drunk driving.

• Three points deduction

Organising or promoting street racing without permission; hit-and run; driving while under the influence of narcotics; driving while under the influence of alcohol exceeding 150mg per ml.

• Four points deduction

Driving under the influence of alcohol exceeding 200mg per ml, drunk driving in a way which may cause serious injuries or death to the other people; driving in a manner disregarding the safety of the other people or causing trouble to other people.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Opposition hits out at government’s military spending in 2020 budget

May Taylor



Opposition hits out at government’s military spending in 2020 budget | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Reuters | The Business Times

The opposition is accusing the government of being more concerned with military arms than the daily struggles of Thai citizens. During a debate in Parliament on the budget bill, the government was accused of caring more about the growth in military spending than citizens’ financial woes.

The opposition levied the attack after PM General Prayut Chan-o-cha delivered the 3.2 trillion baht bill to the House of Representatives. The debate on the 2020 budget is expected to continue for two more days and if approved by Parliament, the bill will come into force early next year.

The PM says the budget aligns with the “20 year strategy” to improve the living standards of the nation’s citizens while growing the economy, but opponents accuse him of making defence spending a priority.

The leader of the opposition, Sompong Amornvivat, claims that in the five years the PM has been in power, total spending has hit 14.3 trillion baht, with loans of 2.2 trillion baht, without any significant growth in the economy. He accuses the government of spending more than 6 billion baht on defence, with the Interior Ministry getting 25 billion baht more than last year.

It’s also understood that the government has also put 518.8 billion baht aside, which it can spend as it wishes, without the consent of Parliament.

The government’s tourism stimulus plan, whereby domestic tourists would be given cash incentives, also came under fire as Sompong declared it a waste of money that would do nothing to boost productivity.

The subject of the PM’s oath-taking fiasco reared its head again, as the leader of the Seree Ruam Thai Party, Pol General Sereepisut Temiyavej declared the PM and his government unfit to rule or propose a budget bill as a result of it.

Anudit Nakorntab from the Pheu Thai party said the government should postpone unnecessary spending on military arms while the country’s citizens battle economic hardship, accusing the previous junta-led administration of also prioritising the military in its spending.

SOURCE: The Nation

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Academics warn of high cost of Thai ban on agri-chemicals

May Taylor



Academics warn of high cost of Thai ban on agri-chemicals | The Thaiger

The chairman of the Thai Sugarcane Farmers Association, Thongkam Cheongklad, says a ban on the weed-killer paraquat would have a severe impact on production costs. Academics and Thai sugarcane farmers have also expressed their concern over the ban, saying it could cost the industry up to 570 billion baht.

The Nation reports that up to 1.2 million people working in the sugarcane industry are understood to be against the ban, saying the proposed paraquat substitute is both expensive and ineffective.

The president of the Thailand Society of Sugarcane Technologists, Kitti Choonhawong, says Thailand has approximately 11 million rai dedicated to sugarcane plantations, generating about 300 billion baht a year.

He claims that a ban on agri-chemicals may lower sugar production, which in turn would affect sugar factories and cause the export market to lose as much as 94.6 billion baht. Thailand is currently the world’s second biggest sugar exporter, behind Brazil.

A research director from the Thailand Development Institute says the ban could ultimately mean the country is not allowed to produce enough food, unless chemical fertilisers are still allowed if chemical pesticides are banned.

Viroj Na Ranong says production costs will still rise however, along with labour costs, adding that the government needs to do its homework.

“The government has to implement measures based on research, not on social trends and politics.”

It’s understood that The National Hazardous Substances Committee will meet on October 27 to decide if a ban on three chemicals currently used in farming will go ahead. The substances involved are paraquat, glyphosate and chlorpyrifos and the proposal is for them to be banned from December 1.

SOURCE: The Nation

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