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STREET WISE

Stimulus package mired in confusion



Anything about money tends to confuse people. This includes the way the Abhisit government announced the economic stimulus measures yesterday.

First, it was Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva who gave reporters details of the package worth Bt115 billion. News agencies quickly reported that members of the Social Security Fund with salaries of Bt14,000 or lower are entitled to a Bt2,000 monthly allowance for six months, under the measure which would encompass civil servants.

But then, Abhisit said the budget for this measure alone is Bt19 billion. Given information from the Social Security Office that eligible members total 8.01 million, the amount would be enough for only a one-time payment and the rest would be shared by civil servants.

If the members were to receive the allowances for six months, the government would have needed to spend more than Bt96 billion.

Then, some reports had the elderly as the group entitled to the six-month allowances totalling Bt9 billion.

Puttipong Punnakan, deputy government spokesman, came out later to say that the government approved the extra spending of Bt115 billion, before giving the details of the 17 measures.

Confusion would not have risen, if he had not said at the end that "of the total central budget, the central budget totalled Bt12 billion, Bt15.2 billion was the PM's Office's budget ...".

He could have said "of the total central budget, this amount is allocated to ".

I can't help recall former prime minister Samak Sundaravej's press conference, hosted to unveil the six energy-related measures last year. Then, all involved ministers were on stage and they detailed their plans, after the summary by the premier.

Then, the government properly prepared a fact sheet, highlighting the cost of each measure. Immediately after the press conference, all who were tuned in to the televised conference knew that most of the spending was going to car owners, as the waived fuel excise tax accounted for over half of the total budget.

The episode raised more doubts of the Abhisit government's performance, particularly following the appointment of Praphan Khoonmee.

After graduating from Ramkhamhaeng with a law degree, Praphan has been involved in political reform. Notably, he was one of the leaders of the People's Alliance for Democracy who was seen during the seizure of Suvarnabhumi Airport. Now, he is the adviser to the science and technology minister.

Probably, the government realises that it is not good at presentations. In that case, Praphan's expertise should help in raising public understanding.



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