DESPITE negative inflation during the past year, Thai farmers and labourers face inadequate incomes, leaving many of them with a debt problem due to a continued rise in the cost of key items, a three-year freeze on the daily minimum wage, and lower earnin
As a result, the economy this year could expand by less than 3 per cent as consumers have low purchasing power, the UTCC said.
To stimulate economic growth, the government should consider raising the daily minimum wage of Bt300 by 5-7 per cent – depending on the area – to cover the cost of living, it suggested.
The government should also accelerate mega-project investment in order to promote employment, Thanavath Phonvichai, director of the UTCC’s Economic and Business Forecasting Centre, said yesterday.
Based on a survey among 1,356 respondents from March 2 to April 11, the UTCC found that farmers and labourers, whose incomes are less than Bt20,000 per household a month, are facing financial liquidity problems and inadequate earnings.
The survey also found that the prices of nine key foods and consumer goods had increased during the past year, resulting in higher outlays for labourers, farmers and salaried workers.
The nine products are pork and chicken meat, seafood, fruits, cooked food, fast food, street food, noodles, agricultural products and equipment, and school and tutoring fees.
The average monthly income for a Thai household this year is only Bt21,157, against Bt26,915 last year, Thanavath said.
In order to cover the rising cost of living, the government may have to consider adjusting the daily minimum wage in each area by 5-7 per cent to help low-income people, as it had been frozen at Bt300 for three years, he added.
Moreover, the government should find ways to promote additional income among farmers during the ongoing drought, as they are currently suffer-|ing from lower earnings, the director said.
The UTCC has also estimated that the drought will cause a loss of about Bt200 billion to the economy, which would mean economic growth of less than 3 per cent this year, he said.
Meanwhile, the Internal Trade Department has asked the makers and suppliers of chemical fertiliser to reduce retail prices by 7-15 per cent, or about Bt10-Bt30 per 50-kilogram sack, with immediate effect.
The price reduction will lower farmers’ production costs during the remainder of the year.