Thailand's rice pledging scheme hasn't contributed to income distribution to farmers but instead has weakened country's financial sustainability given its loss of 410B baht in last two years, says former finance minister

, October 9, 2013 () – The Thai government's rice pledging scheme has not contributed to income distribution to farmers, but instead weakened the country's financial sustainability given its loss of Bt410 billion in two years, former finance minister Pridiyathorn Devakula said today.

In a keynote speech at the Thai Good Governance 2013 event hosted by the Thai Chamber of Commerce, he said the country suffered a loss of Bt205 billion per year, or Bt410 billion in two harvest seasons, while revenues distributed to farmers were only Bt80 billion.

To create sustainable income distribution, the government must increase the profit base for agricultural produce with manufacturing development and cost reductions, he said.

He suggested a revenue-generating alternative with the development of, for instance, agricultural locations as community tourism sites, increased value for grassroots-manufactured OTOP (the government's One Tambon One Product programme) goods - both of which are more sustainable than export reliance.

Asian countries like South Korea and Taiwan have reduced their dependence on exports and concentrated more on domestic reliance, he said.

He said the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) should play a vital role in creating a community plan and mapping out a manufacturing direction to suit the market, boost community income and develop community tourism with the Tourism Authority of Thailand taking charge of public relations.

Education at community level should be developed with the employment of qualified teachers and independent purchase of technical books, he said.

Pramon Sutheewong, chairman of the Anti-Corruption Network, said the group has supplied the government with information on corruption in the rice pledging scheme and hoped that it would take action to avoid further damage to the country.

A huge portion of the budget has been wasted for rice subsidy instead of being spent for development of the country's competency for long-term competitiveness, he said.

He said the network next Tuesday will disclose information on the scheme's losses, malpractices, loopholes in the rice pledging process, which was collected from experts and related agencies. - MCOT

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