Bangkok Post 15 June 2008
Critics blast government's performance: Handling of rice and inflation criticized
The Nation, June 16, 2008
Farmers upset as rice-pledging scheme stutters
Farmers in some provinces did not benefit because the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives was unable to launch the Bt35-billion rice-pledging scheme as scheduled due to lack of preparation.
But the scheme was started in seven other provinces .
Reports said one province was given just one day to prepare for the scheme, whereas the millers' association was still screening the 13 millers in the province. The scheme is likely to start tomorrow.
Sawang Rittirong, of BAAC's Angthong office, said that though the National Rice Policy Committee's order issued on June 6 asked BAAC, the Public Warehouse Organisation and the Marketing Organisation for Farmers to work together on the rice-pledging scheme, the bank had been unable to contact officials from the two organisations. However, preparations are expected to start today and BAAC hopes to launch the scheme in Angthong on Thursday.
The Democrat Opposition voiced concern about the lack of cooperation between state agencies as a result of conflicts between the finance and commerce ministers.
Thai economic also experts slammed the government's poor economic performance, zeroing in on its handling of rice prices and inflation.
The Commerce Ministry and the Bank of Thailand were at the centre of criticism at a forum marking the 59th anniversary of the establishment of Thammasat University's economics faculty. Ammar Siamwalla, an honorary economist for the Thailand Development Research Institute and a rice policy expert, said the rice policy lacked direction.
He also took the government to task for having the Commerce Ministry, which is in charge of macro economics, handle inflation instead of the central bank. Mr Ammar said the government lacked a clear economic policy and so far had not come up with a viable approach to manage the economy.
He blamed the Samak cabinet's poor economic performance on a hidden agenda of whitewashing the Thaksin administration.
Former deputy prime minister M.R. Pridiyathorn Devakula agreed with Mr Ammar's views about the government's handling of the rice issue. He said the government's policy seemed to get off track, citing its initiatives to give people on low incomes coupons to buy food and other basic necessities and to allocate one million rai of unused land from state agencies to poor farmers.
The criticism came just before the government starts a fresh rice-pledging scheme. Last week, the cabinet allocated 25 billion baht for the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) to buy up to 2.5 million tonnes of rice paddy from farmers. Rice millers cast doubts over the new scheme, saying the requirements for joining are high and the procedures are unclear.
Rice millers are said to be short of cash to join in the scheme. In Chiang Rai, rice farmers are threatening to set up roadblocks in the coming week if rice millers fail to pay for their rice. This could disrupt both road transport as well as the rice supply chain.