In an interview with The Nation, Dr Kobsak Pootrakool, the PM’s Office Minister responsible for implementing several new measures, said the government will pursue the second-stage welfare card and other reform projects along with this programme.
The Thai Niyom programme aims to integrate national reconciliation, agricultural reform, and other economic and social development efforts into one.
A state budget of more than Bt100 billion has been earmarked for welfare, farm reform and other measures towards the end of this year.
More than 30,000 officials from Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) and Government Savings Bank (GSB) will be assigned to help low-income farmers and other rural poor tackle their economic well-being problems.
Four nationwide meetings between officials and villagers have been scheduled, with the first session due to take place on February 21. The focus is on the 11.4 million people who have been registered on the government’s database as low-income earners, with an annual income of less than Bt30,000.
In the first-stage welfare project, these 11.4 million people have been issued electronic cards entitling them to small monthly allowances and other state subsidies, including those for low-priced necessity products.
In the second-stage welfare project, BAAC and GSB officials will meet some of these people personally and advise them how to improve their economic well-being.
According to Kobsak, BAAC and GSB officials will work like account officers and, in the first February 21 session, they will gather input from the target groups to formulate more effective measures to boost their income.
Vocational training courses for agriculture, tourism and other areas, e-commerce and business-franchise coaching, as well as the provision of small-business loans and other measures will be considered to suit the needs of each family. The goal is to help low-income families earn more money from diversified sources while avoiding occupations that may not generate enough income.
For example, farming rice and some other crops may lead to losses for farmers when selling prices are lower than production costs, resulting in chronic economic hardship.
Besides low farm prices, other major causes of chronic economic hardship in rural areas are the lack of sufficient water for farming and expensive loans borrowed from non-bank lenders.
Kobsak cited the northeastern province of Kalasin as an example. He said this province is ranked among the country’s poorest in terms of per-capita income and one of its root causes is the shortage of water even though it has a major dam.
The dam, however, can serve only four out of the province’s 18 districts due to geographic factors, so the majority of 14 districts often face drought.
The solution is to re-direct and manage the water flow with a new irrigation system that serves the rest of districts while also helping local authorities promote tourism as an alternative source of income.
Kosbsak said rural Thailand also lacks proper mechanisms for local residents to form groups to jointly tackle their economic issues. As a result, the government is planning to amend community enterprise legislation to support the establishment of these enterprises as juristic persons.
Another piece of legislation is on the way to facilitate the establishment of community banks to provide deposit and lending services to villagers.
Published : February 17, 2018
By : NOPHAKHUN LIMSAMARNPHUN THE SUNDAY NATION