Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Bangkok street food gets a taste as govt unveils 12 progressive policies

Jul 21. 2019
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By Wichit Chaitrong
The Nation

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The government has listed improving people’s living standards among 12 priorities in a formal policy statement.

The policy statement is to be debated in Parliament on July 25-26.

The government also said it would reduce obstacles blocking people from earning a decent living and would utilise digital technology to manage public transportation. 

It said existing regulations that curb Bangkok’s street vendors would be reviewed so that the city could retain its global reputation for exciting street food while at the same time ensuring cleanliness and orderliness.

This appears to reverse the stance adopted by the previous junta-backed government, which resulted in several popular street-food areas in the capital being cleared of vendors, the stated aim being to free crowded footpaths for commuters. 

Critics said the move hurt small-scale tradesmen and would cost the Thai economy several billion baht a year, as well as ruining Bangkok’s reputation as a top destination for street food.

The government has also vowed to address swelling household  debt to revolving village funds, school tuition funds and loan sharks. 

The move could be in response to high household debt in Thailand, which has slowed domestic consumption even as the global economy struggles to recover. 

Online financial fraud will also be urgently addressed, the government said.

It said it would review the taxation system, but offered no further signal about an election campaign promise to lower personal income tax. 

Poor farmers are promised access to land and low-income people access to mortgage loans so they can buy houses. 

Small-scale fishing operations would get some relief from strict rules imposed by the previous government, it said, though international fishing standards would be maintained.

State welfare coverage will be expanded to include support for pregnant mothers, infants and young students whose families are struggling financially.

Service quality will become more standardised among the universal public health scheme, social security for workers and healthcare for state officials.

The government pledges to more promptly inject money into the economy following a series of annual budget delays. 

It will accelerate the procedure for fiscal 2020, delayed due to tardiness in forming the new government.

It promises to increase the minimum wage, but stops short of committing to a hike beyond Bt400 as promised during the campaign by the Phalang Pracharat Party, which leads the coalition government.

In terms of education reform, the government promises to prepare citizens for the 21st century by promoting science and technology studies, such as introducing computer-coding courses in primary schools.

It promises to initiate public hearings on constitutional changes, given that the current charter, written by the military, has been called undemocratic and discouraging of amendments that would enshrine basic freedoms.

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