Compiled by Veera Prateepchaikul and Sirinya Wattanasukchai
Claims by both the Finance Ministry and Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) that the previous government’s rice-pledging scheme may have incurred over 700 billion baht in damages, causing a huge debt burden for taxpayers, tell just one side of the story, says Thai Rath columnist Mudlek.
The scheme ended abruptly, was not handled by professionals and was exploited by many people seeking personal gain, he said.
Former commerce minister Niwattumrong Bunsongphaisarn stepped in to take over the scheme before the May 22 coup took place.
In the three years from 2011, the previous government managed to sell six million tonnes of rice at an average 15,000 baht per tonne, earning 480 billion baht.
Out of the 860 billion baht total cost, and earnings from sales amounting to 480 billion baht, the total loss should come to about 380 billion baht over the past three years, or losses of 126 billion baht each year, he said.
The amount of unpaid loans stands at 46 billion baht.
Mudlek said the present government itself has spent up big helping farmers – 200 billion baht in farm subsidies for rice farmers and rubber growers.
On top of that, the writer said the government had also secured 94 billion baht in loans to pay farmers who had pledged their crops under the rice-pledging scheme but who have yet to be paid.
All payments to help farmers represent additions to the country’s debt burden, said Mudlek.
He said both the Finance Ministry and TDRI told only the negative side of the rice-pledging scheme and ignored the positive side such as the expansion of consumption which resulted.
He also asked why critics had so little to say about the Thai Khem Khaeng scheme run by the previous Democrat-led government which incurred losses as heavy as those of the rice-pledging scheme.
First published: Bangkok Post, November 11, 2014