Thai parties’ populist election policies damaging country’s future: Harvard scholar
Most Thai political parties remain addicted to short-term populist policies to woo voters while ignoring long-term fixes for the country’s problems.
That was the verdict of Harvard scholar Prof Kriengsak Chareonwongsak on Tuesday as parties ramped up campaigning for the general election tentatively scheduled for May 7.
Kriengsak, who is also founder and president of the Nation-Building Institute, noted that Thailand’s large parties have launched populist policies on government subsidies, debt moratoriums, and mitigating people's cost of living.
For instance, the Bhumjaithai Party is campaigning on a policy to suspend debt repayment for three years, while its coalition partner Palang Pracharath has pledged to increase subsidies for state welfare cardholders to 700 baht per month and offer land to poor workers, he explained.
"The Democrat Party would offer 30,000 baht per household for farmers, 100,000 baht per year for fisheries workers and free school milk for children," he said. "Meanwhile, Pheu Thai would increase the minimum wage by 600 baht."
This showed that the policies of Thai political parties' policies remain limited," he said. The parties are still failing to come up with policies to deal with structural problems or long-term development of the country, he added.
Meanwhile populist policies threaten to increase the country’s financial burdens and erode people's potential by getting them hooked on government handouts, he said.
"Their policies may alleviate people's suffering but will not bring change or drive the country’s progress.”
Instead, parties should focus on policies for the sustainable development of Thailand while daring to think outside the box on big problems such as the middle-income trap, poverty, inequality, corruption and environmental damage.
"These are policies that will change the country," he said.
He advised political parties to offer incentives for people to be self-reliant rather than encouraging them to wait for government assistance. He proposed policies such as working for welfare benefits, honing occupational skills to boost productivity, and imposing progressive taxation such as negative income tax.
These policies would also help improve Thailand's taxation system once people could generate higher income, he said.