Stop promising so many subsidies, development expert urges political parties
Election policies should focus on sustainable ways to stimulate the economy and improve the quality of life rather than subsidies, Somchai Jitsuchon, research director for inclusive development at the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), told a forum on Friday.
Thai political parties are too focused on offering subsidies to people instead of developing policies that lead to sustainable economic growth, Somchai told the forum "Are election policies populism or public welfare?".
Subsidies have become widespread since former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra swept to power in 2001 with his 30-baht health-care scheme and other social-welfare policies, Somchai told the forum organised by Chulalongkorn University’s Policy and Management Development Institute.
Thailand is at risk of chronic poverty because Thai workers have not been reskilled, Somchai said, adding that poor people risk being left with nothing but government assistance.
"Political parties must ensure that they do not offer too many subsidies," he said.
He advised political parties to focus on employment. Teaching workers new skills and improving the ones they already have can ensure sustainable economic growth, Somchai said.
Elderly people can receive job training so they can continue to work, he added.
Reskilling and upskilling workers costs less than subsidies and can be completed in two years, Somchai said.
Political parties must be prudent about election promises because they impact the national budget and can affect the entire financial system, he said, urging them to consider reforming the tax code to raise more revenue.
"Political parties should be brave about tax reform. They can generate more revenue to help vulnerable people [by reforming the tax system]," he said, adding that tax reform can reduce inequality.
The tax code should be reformed within the first two years of a new government, Somchai said, adding that many political parties had offered vague details about tax reform because they were afraid of losing votes.
Somchai also called on politicians to pay more attention to children's development as they will eventually be able to drive Thailand towards sustainability.
The government should open child development centres and train elderly people to work as teachers and caregivers in them, he said. Such centres are not expensive and can benefit Thailand immensely, he explained.
He urged voters to carefully study the policies of political parties and to consider their impact on the country before they cast their ballots.