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Rice-Pledging Scheme

Govt to seek bank loans to pay out rice farmers

Commercial banks to be tapped after state banks' unions balk at lending

THE Finance Ministry will today invite 32 banks to tender loan conditions so that the government can raise the funds needed to pay out farmers who sold rice to the pledging scheme, a source at the ministry disclosed yesterday. About Bt130 billion is allegedly required but no figure was given for the total amount that will be sought today.

Lately, state banks' labour unions have opposed to lending money to the scheme, which has huge debts. The chairpersons of banks' labour unions met yesterday to discuss on how to fend off any move to use the banks' deposits for the scheme. The state banks include the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC), EXIM Bank, the Government Savings Bank (GSB), Government Housing Bank (GHB), and SME Bank.

Labour organisations, meanwhile, called on the Social Security Office's chairman Jeerasak Sukhontachart and secretary general Ammorn Chaovalit to demand that they never allow the Social Security Fund to grant loans to the rice-pledging scheme.

The scheme has incurred massive financial losses in recent years partly because it is unable to sell rice at a price higher than the Bt15,000-per-tonne rate that it promised to participating farmers.

The scheme is also reportedly mired with corruption.

The government is struggling to secure loans for the scheme to pay money owed to about 1.4 million farmers. Thousands of farmers have already taken to the streets to air their grievances over the delay in payments.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong, his deputies Tanusak Lekuthai and Benja Louicharoen, and Council of State secretary general Chukiat Rattanachaicha discussed the scheme yesterday but refused to give any interview.

Deputy Commerce Minister Yanyong Phuangrach said the government was in the process of facilitating payments to farmers via the BAAC.

"But I don't know about the loan procedures," he said.

He blamed anti-government demonstrators for trying to threaten state-owned banks against approving loans for the scheme.

Likit Klinthanom, who chairs the GSB labour union, said he viewed the scheme with suspicion because the BAAC, which was directly in charge of the scheme, now refused to give loans for it.

In related news, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) resolves yesterday to combine two related cases against caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra about the rice-pledging scheme into its probe.

The first accuses Yingluck of dereliction of duty over the scheme. The other, filed by Democrat MPs via the Senate president, seeks to impeach Yingluck over the scheme.

NACC commissioners Prasart Pongsivapai and Wicha Mahakun will be in charge of the probe.




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