Prayut boasts of economic prowess

Says country better placed than most

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha speaks during a general debate in Parliament on Friday. (Parliament photo)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has insisted that Thailand is better able to deal with inflation and the rising cost of living than other countries, amid criticism of the government’s failure to handle the problems.

In a post on his official Facebook account, Gen Prayut wrote that inflation and the high prices of goods caused by the economic impacts of Covid-19 are a major concern for the public, and the government is stepping up efforts to address the problems.

Gen Prayut explained that he took to Facebook to elaborate on what he earlier presented during a general debate in parliament. The two-day debate wrapped up without a vote on Friday.

Gen Prayut wrote that surging inflation and the high prices for a wide range of goods, particularly last year, are unprecedented since World War II. Output and demand for goods and services have also changed dramatically.

Last year, Thailand’s inflation rate was at 1.2%, compared to India’s 10.6%, the US’s 4.7%, Japan’s 2.6%, Malaysia’s 2.5%, Singapore’s 2.3% and Vietnam’s 1.9%, the prime minister posted.

He further pointed out factors contributing to global inflation such as virus containment measures, particularly city lockdowns which restrict business operations, and travel curbs which disrupt goods transport and logistics, thus driving up transport and sea freight fees.

“Compared with other countries, the impacts on Thais are less severe,” he wrote, citing diesel prices in Thailand have risen by only 20% compared to 30% in the UK and 46% in the US.

He continued: “Last year, electricity fee rates remained unchanged, but in the UK, the fees increased two-fold. Global food prices also soared by 28% last year, as opposed to those in Thailand which rose by only 0.77%.”

Regarding global trade, Gen Prayut said the government has been seeking opportunities by boosting exports of agricultural produce worth more than 63 billion baht.

In total, the value of Thai exports amounted to more than 191 billion baht last year, Gen Prayut wrote, adding that the government has set itself the task of tackling household debt this year with the aid of the Thai People Map and Analytics Platform (TPMAP), a data analytics tool, to combat poverty issues in all regions of Thailand.

The government will also devise measures to support debt settlement and restructuring as well as to help small- and medium-sized firms and micro entrepreneurs gain access to funding.

“I believe efforts to ease the debt problem will deliver tangible results this year,” the prime minister wrote.

“In summary, while other countries are experiencing inflation and high prices similar to Thailand, the information and figures I present are proof that Thailand is better able to deal with the problems than most countries.

“This is not a coincidence. Rather, it is the outcome of government efforts and advance preparations. Most importantly, it is the result of collaboration among all sectors and all Thai people,” Gen Prayut posted.

Gen Prayut likewise pointed out that it is necessary for the government to spend significantly to deal with the crisis.

During Friday’s general debate, opposition MPs lambasted the government for failing to tackle skyrocketing costs.

Wan Ubamrung, a Pheu Thai MP for Bangkok, said the economy has fared poorly under the government, with the cost of living skyrocketing.

He also accused the government of failing to crack down on illicit drug trafficking gangs.

Ekkachai Songamnartcharoen, a Pheu Thai MP for Ubon Ratchathani, said the government has paid little attention to problems affecting farmers. He further insisted that Thailand agricultural sector competitiveness has declined since the government took office.