Former deputy prime minister Pridiyathorn Devakula yesterday issued an open letter to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra calling for her and the caretaker government to resign to end the current political deadlock, as her administration is considered a fa
He called for the setting up of a central government that can be accepted and trusted by every party.
The rice-pledging scheme is facing a shortage of funds to pay farmers while the government is sitting on giant stockpiles, the Energy and Industry ministries do not see eye to eye on promoting private enterprises to install rooftop solar panels and the government cannot organise a reform assembly.
Pridiyathorn, who was finance minister in the Surayud Chulanont cabinet and is also a former governor of the Bank of Thailand, said that given its lack of capability to solve many problems, the government should abandon its caretaker role.
Otherwise, he said, the economy will continue to melt down amid the slowing down of every business transaction, mainly in tourism growth, investment by both Thais and foreigners, real estate and property sales and payments, hiring and spending. And farmers in the pledging programme are suffering from non-payment for their crops.
This government could resign under the Constitution, he said. In other countries, if any government faced such a serious problems and could not solve them, it would normally quit.
"To be a short-term caretaker government could be accepted. But after the failure of the February 2 general election, the caretaker government seems to stay for too long. If it is allowed to be a caretaker government that cannot solve any problems, the Thai economy will be seriously hit," he said.
Many investors are taking a "wait and see" stance and hesitate on whether they should continue or start a new investment or do many businesses in Thailand. But after the failure of the general election, which was blocked in parts of the country by protesters whose minority movement wants an unelected "People’s Council", the caretaker government could stay on for another five or six months, which it is too long for "wait and see". This could encourage those investors to consider moving out of Thailand or investing in other countries, Pridiyathorn noted.
He said he came out with the open letter yesterday as he did not want to see Thailand getting worse. He insisted that he had no political agenda or conflict of interest with anyone. He called for Yingluck to weigh matters carefully for the country’s interest rather than be concerned with only one person’s benefit.
"It is not about a victory of the protesters. But it is about our country’s survival. Yingluck should make her decision to resign and think about the country’s benefit as a major concern," he said.
As for the rice project, the government is now at a dead-end, he said. It cannot get a loan, hamstrung by its caretaker status, and faces difficulty in earning money to pay farmers. The only solution for the pledging problem is for the government to resign and then its policy can be changed. Farmers may agree to negotiate and be compensated for the difference in the cost of rice.
The government cannot pay the farmers because it cannot provide enough funds for the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) to operate the scheme as planned.
Yingluck’s government set the budget for the 2013-14 crop year at Bt270 billion. The plan was for the BAAC to issue Bt140 billion in bonds to be guaranteed by the Finance Ministry. The remaining Bt130 billion would come from rice sales from last year’s stocks.
The truth, however, is that from the time the government announced its plan in October to when it announced the House dissolution in December, the Bt140 billion bonds under the Finance Ministry guarantee have not been issued. And since November, the Commerce Ministry has only managed to sell Bt40 billion worth of rice, which is far under the Bt130-billion target.
In essence, the delay by the Finance Ministry in issuing the BAAC bonds and the inability of the Commerce Ministry to sell rice caused the bank to lack sufficient funds to pay farmers, Pridiyathorn claimed.
The failure to operate this flagship policy is the direct result of the government’s lack of ability and nothing else, he said.
"This crisis of confidence, which you and your government are facing, stems from the failure to run the country properly. It is because you have ignored the country’s problems for too long. You have neglected tackling corruption. You do not try to prevent incidents of graft that have already occurred from recurring," he said.
The lack of faith and confidence also extends to suspicions that corruption plagues key government infrastructure and mega-projects, whether the Bt350-billion water-management scheme or the Bt2-trillion infrastructure project, he claimed.
"It’s a sad state of affairs when it does not matter what the government says. The perception is already there with a large segment of the population that corrupt practices exist in these mega-projects.
"Without public confidence, it would be very difficult for your government to launch these projects, which would have helped support the country’s economic growth," he said.
"A good leader has to choose the country first when the time comes. I hope that my open letter will help you make the decision to stop the ongoing damage for the sake of the country and its people."
Meanwhile, Kittiratt Na-Ranong, caretaker deputy prime minister and finance minister, also posted an open letter to Pridiyathorn on his Facebook page late yesterday that said there were no new ideas in Pridiyathorn’s letter.
The proposal that the caretaker prime minister resign is identical to that of anti-government protesters but is not accordance with democratic principles, he said at the end of his open letter to Pridiyathorn.