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Grass-roots economy in for a boost

Feb 27. 2015
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By Erich Parpart

The Nation

Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-ocha said he had high hopes that the grass-roots economy would do better after the "Economic Cabinet" green-lit two measures on Wednesday, one of them to help farmers.

He said his regime was trying to accelerate disbursement of the state budget, but the need for transparency contributed to below-target spending in the first quarter of the 2015 fiscal year.

"The government is currently looking at two pictures. One is the macroeconomic picture, while the other is simulation of the grass-roots economy, especially in the agricultural sector. We have to find a way to increase the purchasing power of grass-roots people in order to boost overall domestic consumption," he said.

Prayut was speaking to the media after congratulating 10 Thai listed firms selected for the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) in 2014, at a special event arranged by the Stock Exchange of Thailand yesterday.

"I have hope and confidence that the Bt40-billion off-budget loan to fix rural and provincial roads will be able to stimulate the grass-roots economy through job creation. There will be more stimulus measures gradually coming out in the near future such as more government investments in basic public utilities and in the special economic zones," he added.

Prayut said he had ordered state agencies to find a way to halve the inspection processes for government projects to speed up budget disbursements while ensuring that efficiency and transparency were left intact.

"I have instructed state and federal agencies at every level to pay close attention to the budget-disbursement process while finding ways to train their subordinates and local authorities to be more efficient with the scrutiny and approval processes. The problem is the pace and efficiency of the working process at the lower levels.

"Around 20 per cent of the total investment budget has been disbursed and we expect around another 30 per cent in the second quarter," he said.

He also commented about the creation of a mobile application that would compile investment information from each state agency and make it available to the public and investors to increase transparency and attract more public-private partnerships (PPPs).

Somsak Chotratanasiri, director of the Budget Office, said earlier that as of February 13, around 39.6 per cent or Bt1.02 trillion of the fiscal 2015 state budget of Bt2.575 trillion had been disbursed. That was lower than the target of 48 per cent. Only Bt67.593 billion or 15 per cent of the investment budget had been spent, much lower than the target of 41.8 per cent or Bt120 billion.

Prayut also said a group of Thai corporates had expressed interest in the construction of a high-speed rail link from Bangkok to Pattaya after his invitation at the beginning of the month and the Finance Ministry was asking them to discuss the feasibility of such a project and which PPP model to be used.

Meanwhile, SET president Kesara Manchusree said she expected more Thai companies to be selected for the DJSI this year, noting that Thai listed firms currently had the highest representation in the indices and most improved of capital markets in the Asean region.

The SET is also developing its own sustainability index, since there are many Thai companies that have good governance, good environmental practices, and high social responsibility but have not gained recognition by the DJSI because it only includes companies with large capital.

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