Thai army rulers prepare emergency economic steps

June 03, 2014 - 12:38:44 am

BANGKOK:  The military junta running Thailand has drawn up a list of emergency measures such as price caps on fuel and loan guarantees for small firms to kick-start an economy threatened by recession after months of political turmoil. 

The plans, outlined by Air Chief Marshal Prajin Juntong late on Sunday after a meeting with officials at economic ministries, take in longer-term measures such as the development of special economic zones on the borders with Myanmar, Laos and Malaysia. 

The military toppled the remnants of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s administration on May 22 after months of protests that had forced government ministries to close, hurt business confidence and caused the economy to shrink. 

The coup was the latest convulsion in a decade-long conflict that pits the Bangkok-based royalist establishment, dominated by the military, old-money families and the bureaucracy, against supporters of Yingluck’s elder brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, who is adored by the poor in the north and northeast. 

Yingluck herself was ordered to step down two weeks before the coup when a court found her guilty of abuse of power. 

Air Chief Marshal Prajin, who is overseeing economic matters for the junta, said 30 urgent proposals on the economy would be discussed with coup leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Among them, Prajin mentioned a form of price insurance for rice farmers. This would replace a costly buying scheme run under Yingluck that collapsed when her caretaker government was unable to find funding, leaving hundreds of thousands of farmers unpaid for months. 

The military rulers said they would also tackle the problem of loan sharks, made worse by the hardship suffered by farmers because of the rice fiasco, and are looking at low-cost home loans to be offered through the Government Housing Bank. 

Prajin said he told the Finance Ministry to look at a complete overhaul of the tax structure and report to him next week. 

The Nation newspaper said state enterprises, including Thai Airways International Pcl and the State Railway of Thailand, would put investment plans to Prajin yesterday and these would also be discussed with Prayuth this week.  

TMB Bank said the economy should pick up under the new government and it expected its loan book to grow 10 percent this year rather than 6 to 8 percent. 

Reuters

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