By Nakarin Srilert
Govt moves to ascertain loss incurred
PM’s Office Minister Varathep Ratanakorn has been assigned to collect information related to the rice-pledging scheme from all government agencies, in a move by the government to clarify confusing figures.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shina-watra said yesterday that there is no a single set of information regarding the loss incurred by the rice-pledging scheme, as each government agency has its own set of information.
Criticism of the scheme emerged when a report showed that pledging in the 2011-2012 harvest year could have resulted in a loss of Bt260 billion. Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom tried to defuse the criticisms, but he could not find the exact loss figure. Yingluck insisted that the scheme itself is beneficial for farmers and creates multiple benefits for the overall economy. She said the government welcomed all comments and the National Rice Policy Committee will come up with solutions for the next harvest years.
Deputy Finance Minister Thanusak Lek-uthai, who also chairs the executive board at Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC), revealed at the Cabinet’s mobile meeting yesterday that the BAAC has already transferred to farmers participating in the rice-pledging scheme more than Bt600 billion, which is higher than the Bt500 billion budget set by the government for the scheme.
About Bt410 billion of the budget has been from the loan made by the government itself, while another Bt90 billion will be from the BAAC.
He said that the BAAC had already paid Bt100 billion of the surplus money in advance and the government will return the money to the BAAC when the Commerce Ministry releases its rice from the stockpile.
“The government expects to return the surplus money from the rice-pledging scheme to the BAAC within a year as the Commerce Ministry itself has accelerated the release of rice from the stockpile,” said Thanusak.
Deputy Government Spokesper-son Sunisa Lertpakawat said the government’s mobile meeting had discussed the point made recently by opposition Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva last week that the rice-pledging scheme had caused a loss of Bt260 billion and only Bt86 billion had reached the farmers.
Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom said that the actual loss figure from the rice-pledging scheme must be reported to the meeting to be held by the National Rice Policy Committee on June 13.
Boonsong had earlier been under attack by Pheu Thai Party MPs and the opposition after he and his deputy failed to clarify the Finance Ministry panel’s report that the scheme has suffered a loss of Bt260 billion, leading to rating agency Moody’s threat to downgrade Thailand’s credit rating.
He said the information provided by the opposition that only Bt86 billion had been transferred to the farmers is distorted. The information revealed by the BAAC is that more than Bt618 billion has already been transferred to the farmers who participated in the rice-pledging scheme (from October 2011 to May 31, 2013) and about 39.1 million tonnes of paddy rice had been pledged.
Kitiratt said that the latest loss figure reported by the Finance Ministry’s Post-Audit Committee on the rice pledging scheme, which will be passed on to the National Rice Policy Committee next week, is not Bt260 billion, but considerably lower. The loss from the scheme will be officially disclosed to the public after the National Rice Policy Committee meeting and will be further reported to the Cabinet.