By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
SOME ACADEMICS, politicians and commentators are calling the junta government’s new Thai Niyom Yangyeun (Sustainable “Thainess”) programme little more than a populist campaign and express doubts over its ability to improve the quality of life for all citizens.
But as the programme was launched yesterday in a mass meeting in Nonthaburi province, the government predicted the programme will help encourage people to abandon their polarised opinions and work together with authorities to push forward the country’s development toward Thailand 4.0 and achieve the goal of solving inequality.
Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday gave the programme’s policy and frameworks to the executive officers of local authorities nationwide, preparing them to implement the agenda in local areas under their responsibility.
Almost all provincial governors of the 76 provinces, chiefs of 878 districts, and high ranking officers of related agencies across the country gathered at the policy briefing conference at the Impact Exhibition and Convention Centre.
Anusorn Tamajai, Rangsit University’s dean of the Faculty of Economics, said it was too early to judge whether the policy idea is good and will be effective.
However, Anusorn said that if the government really wants to improve the people’s livelihood and increase their income, they must aim to support businesses and make it easier for them to increase production. That would increase people’s income in the long term, rather than just giving people aid from time to time.
He said that though he considered the latest programme to be populist policy by its very nature, he doesn’t see it as wrong for the government to try and gain popularity from implementing the programme, if the program genuinely delivers benefit to people.
“I do not see that this is the effort by the government to stay in power or gain popularity before the election is held. However, I would like to suggest that they should play by their rules to transparently compete in the election, as the new Constitution favours them already,” he said.
Former Pheu Thai politician Payab Pankate said that the government is going to spend up to Bt2 billion just to improve their popularity so they can stay on the power, which is waste of money without any real benefit to the people. “Most of the frameworks in this programme are routine duties of the local authorities already and this programme just duplicates these duties,” Payab said. “The only new thing is encouraging the people to know ‘Thai-style’ democracy.
“This programme consumes a large amount of the country’s budget without improving anything and also increases the burden for officers.”
The 10 frameworks of the programme include: encouraging harmony in society, assisting low-income people, developing better livelihood, promoting a sufficiency economy, raising awareness of good citizenship, enhancing people’s understanding about the government’s work, promoting “Thai-style” democracy, providing technological knowledge to the people, tackling the drugs problem, and supporting the missions of every official agency.
According to the Interior Ministry, the local authorities will dispatch 7,663 teams of community-work officers to visit local people in 83,151 communities across the country to learn about their needs and problems and encourage them to support the Thai Niyom Yangyeun policy and work with the government.
Buri Ram’s Chamni District chief Thakon Samhirun said that he already had a plan to implement the programme in the locality under his jurisdiction, as the community working teams have already been set up.
“What we are doing is to send the teams to talk with the local people to learn about their problems in all aspects and encourage them to be aware of their duties as good citizens of the country, and to work with the government to further develop our nation,” Thakon said.
“This is absolutely not a brainwashing campaign or populist propaganda, as the government clearly intends to learn the people’s needs and problems and the authorities will find the solutions to help them.”
He gave assurances that the programme’s budget would be wisely spent on meals for officers and local people, but only while working on this programme.
Meanwhile, Prayut also emphasised that the programme will be an effective government approach to tackle inequality and urged people to support and work with the government to sustainably develop the country. He denied that this programme was either just a populist campaign or the military-backed government’s strategy to stay in power.
“What we are doing now is to assure that there will be justice and equity and make sure that the low-income people will be assisted, because this group of people faces a lack of opportunity,” he said. “We are working to improve the livelihood of all citizens and this is not an effort to stay in power. Please do not misunderstand the government’s intention to help the people.”