Rice payments tomorrow

national May 25, 2014 00:00

By The Sunday Nation

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BAAC arranging Bt55 bn from its reserves and fund; farmers put faith in Prayuth

The Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) is preparing a Bt55-billion budget from its reserves and the Farmers Assistance Fund to pay farmers owed under the rice-pledging scheme, starting tomorrow. 
BAAC president Luck Wajananawat said as the Constitution has been suspended, the bank could disburse from its reserves and the farmers’ fund to pay farmers at the earliest following orders from the National Council for Peace and Order. 
The ousted government was able to pay about Bt100 billion to the farmers until now, but another Bt90 billion is still owed to 80,000 farmers. Luck added that the bank would also encourage financial institutions to offer loans for paying outstanding dues to the farmers under the rice-pledging scheme to ensure that every farmer gets his money within 15-20 days. 
Meanwhile, Air Chief Marshal Prajin Jantong, who heads the economic ministries, is scheduled to meet high level officers of the Finance Ministry, the Bank of Thailand, and financial institutions. They will discuss urgent economic issues, including finding money to pay farmers, economic stimulus measures and budget disbursement for fiscal year 2014-15. The Thai economy has been seriously impacted by the prolonged political crisis for half a year.
Former Phitsanulok Democrat MP Warong Dechgitvigrom hailed Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha for his swift action to pay farmers the debts the Yingluck government owed them for the rice they had pledged. He said Prayuth had ordered Finance Ministry officials to work during the weekend to clear the long over-due debts within 15-20 days, as farmers across the country faced financial difficulties.
“The Yingluck government designed this policy in a bid to woo voters, corrupted and garnered support from vested-interest groups through the whole process of the pledging scheme,’’ he said.
He urged Prayuth to further provide farmers assistance in reducing the cost of fertilisers and pesticides. 
Prayuth told Friday’s meeting of agency heads that funds had been partly allocated to repay debt owed to rice farmers under the ousted government’s rice-pledging scheme. He expressed confidence that within 15-20 days the debts should be repaid. 
Kittisak Rattanawaraha, chairman of the Northern Farmer Networks expressed confidence that Prayuth, who is in charge of the country’s administration with full authority, would be able to find Bt100 billion for the debt the government owed to farmers. 
The caretaker Yingluck government was unable to seek loans to pay farmers for rice pledged under the government’s populist scheme due to legal obstacles faced as a result of being a caretaker government.
Kittisak, however, expressed concern that more than 90 per cent of farmers may not have enough money to pay debts. He said during the eight-month period that the caretaker government had failed to pay farmers the money, they were forced to seek shark loans in order to pay for daily expenses and to pay for supplies such as pesticides and fertilisers to continue their rice plantation.
More than 300 farmers from Phitsanulok and representatives of kamnan and village heads of 17 northern provinces submitted a letter to the Phitsanulok governor, showing their support for Prayuth. They thanked Prayuth for his swift action in paying the farmers and his promise to maintain the kamnan and village heads institution in the country’s administration.
A group of 20 Chiang Mai residents handed soldiers food and supplies in a show of support to the military at Kalawin camp in Muang district. A group of doctors and nurses in Kalasin also presented food and supplies to soldiers through the Kalasin governor. 
Security has been stepped up in Buri Ram at the provincial hall, train station, power stations and bus station to prevent ill-intentioned groups from staging violence.

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