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Parties offer mixed bag of economic goodies

Mar 19. 2019
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AS ECONOMIC policies are among of the most salient promises for winning the hearts of voters in Sunday’s election poll, pundits and experts are analysing the proposals put forward by the political parties.

Among them is Punyapon Tepprasit, chief executive officer of MVP Consultant and lecturer in the MBA industrial management programme at Ramkhamhaeng University.

 Punyapon shared his thoughts in a recent interview with The Nation.

Punyapon is concerned that “populist” policies have dominated the policy discussion so during this year’s campaign, as they are useful for reaching their target voters and getting them out to vote. Meanwhile, the populist policies implemented in some countries have caused their economic system to fail, in particular the policies of Venezuela.

Punyapon notes that three political parties – Democrat, Pheu Thai and Phalang Pracharat – can expect to win the overwhelming majority of votes in the poll. These parties are in the mainstream of Thai politics, and will together send the largest proportion of representatives to the House Representatives, and any one of them could emerge as the key government player. And so, their economic policies deserve serious consideration.

Punyapon said the Democrat Party is this election focused on policies intended to solve the problem of poverty. In particular, they aim to raise the productivity of agriculture through the Blue Title Deed Project in order to access funding sources to ensure water is available year-round so farmers could raise productivity. This could result in addressing a major pain point for Thai farmers. Similarly to the farmers’ income insurance, it could be proved effective and continued. However, it is interesting to consider that GDP indicators are not the only useful indicators. Other assessments could be used to reduce the gaps and disparities including environmental factors, public health, and others. This point is interesting for helping to prepare the country for success in the modern world. 

Meanwhile, Pheu Thai Party, the Democrat’s main competitor, also has had both positive and negative outstanding economic performances, including the rice-pledging policy of the Yingluck government. In the latest election race, the party’s policies are quite interesting, said Punyapon, especially those focused on strengthening Thai SMEs, which have been the largest domestic business component driving the real economy for a long time. The interest point with Pheu Thai’s economic platform is the proposal to create a “finance company” in every province to expand the opportunities for SMEs, and others who want to do business, to access funding sources. The opportunity could be expanded to help launch careers and build incomes across the country.

“This point is interesting,” said Punyapon, “and I personally want to see this, because it would reduce the number of people having to relocate to large cities, and would reduce the crime, when jobs are available in every province.” 

Phalang Pracharat Party is perhaps best know in this election for having General Prayut as its sole candidate for Prime Minister. The interesting point with their economic platform is that they have adopted the policies that were outlined in the 20-year national strategy. It is likely to continue to run the country much as it has performed in recent years, as a sort of Lego jigsaw-style extension, said Punyapon. Their interesting point is to upgrade the skills of 5 million producers through creating “smart” SMEs, 1 million smart farmers, 1 million startups, and 1 million makers and community retailers.

The concern is whether or not the programme could truly be “smart”, said Punyapon. The current database, which should be created and used to support entrepreneurs to store data, is not working properly. Cleaning and organising the Big Data to be used could take many years. What should not be done, says Punyapon, is to focus too much on startups, and there is a need to admit that Thailand remains distant from its goal of creating the unicorn startups that have succeeded in some other countries. Real success and serious action has yet to be seen regarding the agricultural policy 4.0 that was implemented under the junta regime. That policy is focused on increasing incomes, alternative innovations, reducing debt burdens, reducing risks, and reducing costs.

Economic policies that could appeal to the large majority of citizens could include, for example, giving money to pregnant mothers, child support payments and allowing old cars to be exchanged for electric cars.

“Personally, I think they don’t help the economy in the long run,” said Punyapon. “They are just short-term promotions and would not really change the long-term situation.”

“Looking at the economic policies of the three parties, if the policies of the Democrat Party could be merged with those of Pheu Thai Party, it would be good and I believe it could be the foundation of a long-term economic development mechanism. This could make the Smart Project of Phalang Pracharat party emerge as the reality and not a problem. For the upcoming election, everyone please use your rights and consider the various policies carefully. Are they just marketing campaigns or how realistic are they for Thailand?”

If people considered the policies carefully, “we can really have good government,” said Punyapon.

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