By CHULARAT SAENGPASSA
“Political parties should focus on how to end economic monopolies. Most parts of the Thai economy have been monopolised by a few groups for far too long,” Assoc Professor Nualnoi Treerat, a lecturer from the Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Economics, said at a seminar this week.
Held at Thammasat University’s Centre for Research on Inequality and Social Policy, the seminar addressed inequality and explored possible solutions.
Asst Professor Duangmanee Laovakul, who teaches at Thammasat’s Faculty of Economics, cited an example of more than 600,000 rai being held by one person, while thousands of farmers remain landless and destitute.
“Of the richest Thais, 10 per cent hold more than 60 per cent of the country’s land that can be occupied,” she pointed out, adding that 20 per cent of the population also owns half of the country’s assets, such as land plots, houses, buildings and automobiles.
In 2015, the average monthly income in Thailand stood at Bt9,409, and when classified by region, those living in the Central region earned the most at Bt12,818 per month. In comparison, those living in southern border provinces, where unrest has been raging for more than a decade, earned just Bt5,725 on average per month.
Nualnoi said this inequality will possibly continue because Thailand’s economic structure has hardly changed in the past three decades. Therefore, she said, it is time for policymakers and political parties to think about how they can improve the distribution of economic benefits in the country.
At the very least, she said, small entrepreneurs should get more benefits, while the country’s land and resources should be shared more fairly. She also urged the state to focus on healthcare and education inequality.
“Gaps in educational and healthcare quality have aggravated inequality,” she pointed out.
Jakchai Chomthongdee, advocacy and campaign coordinator at Oxfam Thailand, said statistics showed that 1 per cent of the richest people in the world received 27 per cent of economic benefits.
Very unfair distribution
“Simply put, when there is one extra baht in the market, Bt0.27 of it goes to the 1 per cent richest,” he said, adding that if such trends continued, poverty reduction would take over a century to solve.
He also said that since one-third of the country’s wealth was inherited, policymakers should find a solution by controlling this inherited money.
“Or else, people who are born poor will remain poor all their lives,” he said.
Though the government has imposed inheritance tax, it only has to be paid when the value of the inheritance is worth more than Bt100 million.
“Tax on land and buildings should be waived when the estate is worth less than Bt5 million, not Bt50 million,” she said.
Nualnoi also encouraged decentralisation of power, because it will facilitate a better distribution of resources.
“Don’t worry about corruption. If the people are well informed, they will be able to keep local administrative bodies in check,” she said.