Thailand's populist policies threaten economy: Abhisit

Bangkok (The Nation/ANN) - Opposition Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has warned the government against continuing its populist policies in the same manner next year, saying the measures risked plunging the country into fiscal deficit and weakening the economy.

Abhisit has expressed his concern over the government's move to seek 2.2 trillion baht (US$71 billion) in loans while reducing revenue by cutting taxes, saying the plan would affect the country's monetary and fiscal positions.

"Everyone has come up with the same analysis - that if the government continues its current economic policies, the country will experience fiscal deficit and become weak economically."

The government, Abhisit said, is expected to increase its use of non-budget spending, something he said showed a lack of financial discipline and would put the country at risk. "At some point this financial indiscipline will adversely affect confidence in the country and result in a financial and economic crisis. The government should learn from our own history or from what has happened in foreign countries," Abhisit said.

Abhisit said next year the public would be adversely affected by rising living costs caused by

the government's policy of increasing the minimum wage to 300 and raising the price of cooking gas.

"The government's mindset of increasing prices first and solving any problems that may arise after, will create a lot of problems especially with corruption and discrimination. The increase in the minimum wage will cause many small-scale business operators [to go under]. The government also is not living up to its election promises to [slash] the cost of living," he said.

He suggested the government review its rice-pledging scheme, saying there are many ways to help farmers.

The farmers themselves have revealed that the money is not reaching them but has fallen into the hands of others.

Moreover, rice exports have dropped both in volume and in value, which has caused the country to lose markets which will be hard to regain," he said.

The opposition leader also offered advice to Thais on how to survive financially next year. "Living life in accordance with the sufficiency principle is best because it provides the best immunity," he said.

Abhisit also suggested the government review its plan to seek 350 billion baht in loans for urgent needs.

"It has been a year and the government has not done anything. If the government seeks the loan and does nothing with it, the public would have to shoulder interest unnecessarily," he said.

*US$1=30.5 baht


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