By THE NATION
Yesterday, the Election Commission (EC) confirmed its readiness to hold the next general election on March 24.
Meanwhile, the Democrat Party expressed optimism yesterday that it would win more House seats in the North and Northeast, which are traditional strongholds of its rivals, the Pheu Thai Party.
Based on the agency’s latest assessment for the new government to be formed after the March 24 general election, NESDB secretary-general Thosaporn Sirisumphand said global market uncertainties will likely affect the country’s export sector, whose growth will also slow to 4.6 per cent, and also the tourism sector.
As a result, the new government will have to speed up the process of construction of the remaining mega-infrastructure projects to help drive this year’s economy whose growth rate will be less than the 4.2 per cent projected for 2018.
The NESDB also urged the new government to provide welfare and implement other measures to take care of low-income people in order to reduce economic inequality.
The latest report is expected to be used by political parties in formulating economic and social policies for the upcoming election. Thosaporn said a major challenge for the new government was the global economic slowdown but the NESDB was confident that the Thai economy could still expand by 3.8 per cent this year.
Thai exporters will have to find new markets to cope with impacts from the US-China trade conflict so as to meet this year’s export growth target of 4.6 per cent. However, he said, the tourism sector and private consumption had recovered so they will contribute to this year’s GDP growth, but the new government will have to push bidding for new mega-infrastructure projects and ensure implementation of existing projects are not disrupted. They include the multiple mass transit lines in Bangkok and its periphery, the double-railway and the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) projects. In addition, another nine projects such as Suvarnabhumi Airport expansion and Bang Yai-Kanchanaburi motorway should be considered and approved by the new government to help boost the country’s economic growth.
Thosaporn said the new government should also focus on helping low-income farmers and wage earners via subsidy programmes, citing the outgoing government’s annual budget of more than Bt40 billion for those with state welfare cards as an example in which the country’s GDP growth has been increased by 0.2-0.3 per cent due to the economic multiplier effect.
Meanwhile, EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma said yesterday that political parties and politicians were cooperating well with his agency and there were no legal violations so far. “The EC is fully prepared to hold the election. Things are all going well and nothing wrong has happened,” Jarungvith said yesterday.
He urged people planning to cast their votes in advance, as well as Thai expatriates who want to vote overseas, to register between today and February 19. Also, he said the EC would issue clear guidelines within a day or two about the places where election candidates can display their campaign posters. The EC’s chief election official for Bangkok, Witchuda Mekanuwong, said yesterday that election candidates planning to campaign through electronic and social media should inform the EC’s provincial directors.
She said that the EC’s Bangkok office would hold training for its officials today about their expected duties, authority and relevant regulations.
Yesterday, senior Democrat politicians expressed confidence that the country’s oldest political party would have a better chance of winning in northern and northeastern provinces in the upcoming election than in the past. “We are confident that northern voters will give us more opportunity. Our policy platforms better address the people’s problems and will result in more votes for us. We lost in the past but we will have a better chance of winning now,”
Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said during his campaign in the northern city of Chiang Mai yesterday.
Also yesterday, former police chief Seripisut Temiyavej, leader of the Seri Ruam Thai Party, asked voters to “kill dictatorship with your pens”.
He accused junta leaders, particularly Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, of attempting to return to power after the election.