PHUKET: Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra finally delivered her administration’s first-year performance declaration to Parliament yesterday, stressing that the period was filled with challenges and problems on many fronts, ranging from politics, society and natural disasters to the global economic downturn.
The premier defended her numerous official trips abroad, saying they were aimed at restoring investor confidence in Thailand and fostering greater investment and economic ties with foreign friends.
Since the government came to power in 2011, it has sought to pursue three key policies – rebalancing the economy to strengthen fundamentals, fostering national reconciliation on the basis on equality and preparing the country for integration under the Asean Economic Community in 2015.
Up to 70 per cent of the economy is dependent on exports so a stronger domestic consumption base needed to be built, while the gap between the rich and poor needed to be narrowed.
This was partly achieved by giving people greater access to capital and pushing for a seven-year major infrastructure investment programme including high-speed train routes.
However, the global economic outlook remains volatile and complex. Spending on flood-prevention measures has led to the cutting of budgets for some ministries although advent of the AEC should help boost trade and tourism.
Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said employment remained stable with a low unemployment rate and the introduction of a Bt300 minimum wage at the beginning of the year “went well”.
Appropriate measures have been introduced to expand the tax base and reduce farmers’ debts. Prices of 42 commodities remained under government control and the prices of 140 more commodities have been temporarily frozen.
“The reduction of company taxes has led to the private sector being more honest in their tax payments,” he said, adding that the first-car policy also enabled a million people to own a car, which was an important asset, and boosted their quality of life.
Opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva presented a starkly different view of the government’s 12-month performance, arguing that the administration had failed the people. He said independent figures pointed to Thailand losing competitiveness in all areas.
Petrol prices also became more expensive than what the government promised, causing hardship among the public, while the first-car and first-home schemes failed to boost the real economy. They had led instead to increasing debt.
“The prime minister must rethink how the economy is managed, because populist projects do not work and cannot strengthen the economy. It also created more risk,” he said.
Fiscal discipline was also necessary, he added.
PHUKET: The new Chinese ambassador to Thailand insisted yesterday that rail-link cooperation with the mainland would be advantageous for Thailand and the region.
In his first press conference since taking the post in Bangkok last month, Ambassador Ning Fukui said: “This is one of the four major projects China will be pushing in the future”. Other bilateral cooperation would include education, new energy and water management, he said. The ambassador said China’s prosperity would also be linked to the development of its neighbours.
Trade between China and the Asean was worth US$400 billion (12.5 trillion Thai baht) in 2012, and the aim is to boost the value of trade to $1 trillion by 2020.
Beijing has been pushing for an ambitious Trans-Asian Railway link with Southeast Asia, which it says will offer great economic advantages to the Asean bloc.
“We have had close cooperation between the Chinese and Thai sides, but it’s still in the stage of consultation,” the ambassador said.
He added that cooperating over the high-speed rail link with China would be positive in many ways, given Beijing’s ability to build bullet trains, that are already popular in China, as well as low construction costs. Thailand also stood to gain due to its location.
Ambassador Ning also spoke of Beijing’s determination to push for stronger ties with the Kingdom, adding that large Chinese firms were planing to boost investment in Thailand in the near future. The envoy said Chinese PM Li Keqiang would visit Asean next month.
PHUKET: Army Chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha said yesterday that Thailand should not rush to conclusions about the BRN’s five recent demands – and that a deep South special administration zone was not possible, as the locals didn’t want it.
The general made his comments as the National Security Council (NSC) prepared for the October dialogue with the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN).
Prayuth said the BRN’s demands had to be reviewed and more information sought before further talks were held. Regarding the fourth demand – in which the BRN reportedly called for a special administration zone – he said that Thailand already had two special zones, Bangkok and the tourist centre of Pattaya, and these two centres needed new administration and budgets.
Nevertheless, he said he believed the budget for the three southernmost provinces wasn’t sufficient and still needed the central government’s support. He’d explained this to the locals, who didn’t want a special administration zone. He claimed if the insurgents laid down their weapons, it would smooth the talks.
Prayuth said the project to bring “misguided” insurgent sympathisers back home had seen 900 people reporting themselves to the authorities. They’d been provided with vocations and safety while officials reviewed their arrest warrants, summonses and evidence.
NSC chief Lt Gen Paradorn Pattanatabut affirmed that Thai negotiators would discuss the BRN demands, as well as the violence during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, in the peace dialogue with BRN in the third week of October. The NSC had forwarded the BRN’s explanation of the five demands to related agencies, including those supervising national security, the people’s sector and academics, for analysis. Results could not be expected for some time.
Paradorn said the restive region’s situation was in a process of recovery because the dialogue was ongoing. Search operations and public safety measures would remain strict and the insurgents’ attacks were declining.
Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SBPAC) chief Thawee Sodsong, during a seminar yesterday on the roles of local media and the Ma
— Phuket Gazette Editors
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