By Chularat Saengpassa
A PROMINENT thinker has urged people to push for a welfare state, which he believes does not contradict the benefits of capitalism-driven development.
“Capitalism develops when it has a quality workforce in regards to education and health,” Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw) executive director Jon Ungphakorn said yesterday.
He was speaking at a forum held by the People’s Network for Welfare State.
Jon said comprehensive universal welfare should be introduced in place of the provision of state welfare to the desperate.
“The latter is discriminatory in nature and hurts the human dignity of people being described as destitute,” he said.
He said state welfare for the destitute was also poor in quality because those receiving the help have had little opportunity to voice their needs.
“Such state help can also be seen as causing inequality among people,” he said, “It should also be noted that some types of help are redundant because of inefficient management.”
Jon added that when taxpayers have not personally benefited from state welfare, they do not support the provision of state help for others.
“Besides, state help for the destitute won’t help reduce economic inequalities,” he said.
Jon insisted that a welfare state should be implemented so as to provide all people with security throughout their lives.
“They should get access to healthcare, education, income and other social services to maintain a quality of life from birth,” he said.
Jon lamented the fact that at present, Thailand still lacked sufficient experts on the welfare state to push for a move in that direction and to design tax structures that would efficiently support the idea. “In Thailand, there is also no party like Britain’s Labour Party,” he said.
Representatives from several political parties listened to Jon at yesterday’s event. Nimit Tien-udom, who represents the People’s Network for Welfare State, then urged the representatives of various parties to express their viewpoints and plans related to a welfare state.
Pheu Thai Party’s spokeswoman Ladawan Wongsriwong expressed confidence that her party would do well in regards to efforts towards creating comprehensive welfare for citizens.
“We were the Thai Rak Thai Party, which introduced the universal healthcare scheme and the village-fund project,” she said, “and we will do more.” Democrat Party’s former MP Atavit Suwannapakdee said his party was a key player behind the National Savings Fund Act.
“We have also now had a plan to ensure that all Thais have an annual income of at least Bt120,000. For those who earn less, the government will provide the difference,” he said. He added that the Democrat Party also had also considered providing crop subsidies.
Grain Party’s founder Sombat Boonngamanong said he really hoped that Thailand would become a welfare state and was determined to work towards that.
“The poor finds life is difficult. They work more than the rich but they earn less. So, we need to look at obstacles the poor face and try to remove them. All at the same time, we must create opportunities for their development in regard to education, jobs and more,” he said.
Lertsak Khamkongsak, the leader of the Commoners’ Party, said the government should be able to find sufficient money in the budget to support welfare-state measures.
While the People’s Network for Welfare State has pushed the idea of a pension for all at the rate of Bt3,000 a month, Lertsak said the country could provide up to Bt5,000 monthly.