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'Spoling' Thais with populist policies blasted

The government should limit the use of populist policies as these will only spoil people but not create sustainable development, while raising the daily minimum wage to Bt300 in some industries hold back development in the value of products, said former deputy prime minister Somkid Jatusripitak.

Speaking on "Ways to Develop Economic and Societal Sustainability" yesterday at a Thai Chamber of Commerce symposium, Somkid said populist policies could trap people into lower development as such measures did not encourage them to learn and develop themselves.

"To promote the growth of the country, the government should increase the opportunity for people to access good education, effective social welfare, and increased capabilities rather than spending huge amounts of money on populist policies," said Somkid, who is also a former finance minister.

To ensure sustainable development of the country and society, the government should not pour water on the leaves but on the roots, which are education, technology development, and innovation, he said.

Somkid pointed out that Thailand spent about Bt2 trillion for the national budgets allocated to its ministries annually. However, each ministry and agency has lacked collaboration, so spending is duplicated and not used effectively to develop the country's long-term growth.

To increase efficiency and narrow the gaps in income and development, Somkid suggested the public and private sectors emphasise three major issues: anti-corruption, balanced spending in the short and long terms, and establishing a safety net to prevent future problems.

Moreover, he said the policy of imposing the Bt300 minimum wage nationwide could create problems for some industries, as product values are unequal. For instance, he said, the cost of mobile-phone equipment and garments are different, but enterprises must pay the same minimum wage, which is not fair for enterprises.

In the past, enterprises might have enjoyed a higher wage as it would boost consumers' purchasing power. However, because of developmental gaps, raising wages nationwide in every industry is considered a burden for the private sector, he said.

Somkid added that the government should seek for more efficient measures to boost incomes in the agricultural sector, as more than 40 million people or two-thirds of the population are involved in this sector, but it generates only 7-8 per cent of gross domestic product.

Sompop Manarungsan, president of the Panyapiwat Institute of Technology, said Thailand had a problem generating income because it relied too much on the export and manufacturing sectors.

Although the country is an agriculture-based economy, that sector creates low returns, he said.

Thailand needs to invest a large amount in infrastructure development, mainly for irrigation systems, logistics, software, communication and technology, as well as human-resource development so that the income gap can be narrowed, Sompop said.

Meechai Virivaidya, president of the Meechai Virivaidya Foundation and Business for Rural Education and Development (BREAD), said people needed to change their mindset to be more concerned about public well-being so that they would help develop the country's growth in various sectors.


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