In the run-up to Thailand's election, political parties are putting together competitive policy platforms to win the rural vote.
Wooing the grass roots: Two parties are contending with farm policies to win the hearts and minds of the largest group of the electorate by Wichit Chantanusornsiri & Walailak Keeratipipatpong
Pheu Thai Party economists say they will move quickly to bring back crop mortgage programmes to support local farmers if they win the July 3 election, coupled with a credit card programme with safeguards against abuse.
The costs of the programmes can be managed to minimise any impact on the country's fiscal standing, they say.
The rice pledging programme would offer payments of 15,000 baht per tonne for white rice paddy and 20,000 baht for Hom Mali fragrant rice, about 50% higher than current market prices.
The Democrat Party has decried the platform as inefficient, fraught with loopholes and benefiting only intermediaries such as rice mills. The Democrats are instead promoting the existing crop insurance programme as a more efficient means of supporting farmers.
But Pheu Thai says its crop mortgage scheme would have a new twist - participants would be given credit cards that could be used to purchase key inputs such as seeds, fertiliser and farming gear.
Credit lines would be set at 70% of expected earnings from new crops pledged to the mortgage programme. Each card would include information about a farmer's land holdings and estimated input needs, which would be accessible whenever a card is used to purchase goods at approved retailers and when rice is pledged to help guard against abuse.
This method would prevent low-priced paddy from other countries to be pledged under the scheme. It would also guard against farmers making excessive purchases [of goods]," said Pichai Naripthaphant, a deputy finance minister in the Samak Sundaravej government.
Farmers could settle their credit bills after the harvest, with the remaining funds representing personal profit.
He estimated that 100 billion baht would be needed to support the pledging and credit card programme, which would run concurrently to support efficiency and guard against corruption.
The programme mirrors the Indian government's Kisan credit card scheme to provide credit to farmers.
But Mr Pichai, a member of the Pheu Thai economic team, said that in India, farmers are charged interest and can use credit lines for non-farm activities.
Under the Pheu Thai programme, users would be charged no interest for purchases but are restricted to buying only farm-related products.
"The current government already spends nearly 100 billion baht [annually] for the farm guarantee programme, but has been unable to boost rice prices," he said.
The substance of the credit card programme is to provide farmers with cash flow between crops, so they do not rely on loan sharks.
Mr Pichai said that many farmers had struggled with debt and interest charges as high as 10% per month to loan sharks to make ends meet between harvests.
He said with the cost of government bonds at 5% per year, fiscal expenses for advancing funds to farmers would be relatively small, at 1-2% in practice.
Mr Pichai said the programme would also be extended to other key crops, including sugarcane and tapioca.
He dismissed concerns by exporters that high pledging prices could cut the export competitiveness of Thai rice. "We have to offer high prices to encourage farmers to continue planting. Otherwise they may leave the fields," he said.
Pheu Thai also plans to beef up its village fund project by planning to give another one million baht per village with an initiative to turn it into a village bank.
A three-year debt moratorium would also be offered to farmers with debts under 500,000 baht. For those with debt of up to 1 million baht, refinancing would apply. The plan mirrors a previous scheme by the Thai Rak Thai Party during the Thaksin Shinawatra government.
While industrialisation over the past four decades has reduced the contribution of agriculture to gross domestic product, more than one-third of the labour force continues to work on farms. Winning these 24 million votes could be a decisive factor in the election.
Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij said farm policy was one area where Pheu Thai was taking a step backward in terms of development.
The Democrats' agricultural policy aims to raise farmers' incomes by 25% through price insurance that now covers rice, tapioca and maize.
Development of new seed strains and the expansion of irrigation and water management systems will be focused. The party vows to accelerate land reform, land and soil development and help for the poor to secure farmland.
An Agriculture Ministry official said both the mortgage and income guarantee plans have their advantages.
In terms of availability, pledging benefits fewer than 30% of all farmers while the income guarantee programme is available to small farmers in remote areas.
Since farmers never return to redeem mortgaged rice, the onus is on the state to keep a huge stockpile of paddy of which quality and value deteriorate by the day.
The Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives at one time had to deal with about 100 billion baht worth of rice and tapioca pledged during the Thaksin Shinawatra administration.
On the other hand, pledging is an effective and quick measure to prop up prices. The government has at its disposal a large stockpile that it can manipulate to control prices.
Meanwhile, the income guarantee plan is not without its flaws. Fraud has already been pointed out as 69 million rai were listed this year from 61 million when the scheme began. This is because the scheme accepts only plots under 30 rai each, prompting large land owners to split their land into plots to qualify.
1. Return of rice pledging at 15,000 baht a tonne for white rice paddy and 20,000 baht for fragrant rice.
2. Issuing credit cards for farmers to purchase farm essentials and production materials.
3. Three-year debt moratorium for farmers with debt lower than 500,000 baht per case. Debt restructuring will be offered for farmers with debts of more than 500,000 and up to one million baht.
4. Additional one million baht fund to be allocated to each village on top of existing one-million-baht village fund.
1. Maintain farm income guarantee programme for rice, maize and tapioca with a plan to increase farmers' earnings by 25%.
2. Allocate community land deeds for 250,000 farmers using state-owned property.
3. Extend social security system to cover 25 million farmers and informal workers nationwide.
4. Establish special farm economic zones in a move to standardise production and distribution chains.
(Source: Bangkok Post, Wooing the grass roots, Two parties are contending with farm policies to win the hearts and minds of the largest group of the electorate, 27/05/2011, Wichit Chantanusornsiri & Walailak Keeratipipatpong, link)
woo - do things to make someone fall in love with you (usually: woo a woman and convince her to marry you)
grassroots - the common ordinary people
parties - political parties
X contending with Y - X dealing with and trying to solve a problem Y
win the hearts and minds of - when a government (or political part) makes efforts to make a group of people like them
electorate - all the people in a country or area who are allowed to vote ผู้ที่มีสิทธิเลือกตั้งทั้งหมดในท้องที่หรือเขตหนึ่งๆ
mortgage - a legal agreement in which you borrow money from a bank การจำนอง
crop mortgage programmes - program in which farmers deposit rice with government and receive a guaranteed high price for their rice
support - help, by giving money, for example สนับสนุน
local - in or related to the area that you live, or to the particular area that you are talking about ท้องถิ่น
election - the process of choosing a person or a group of person for a position, especially by voting elect (v) electoral (adj) synonym: the polls การเลือกตั้ง
coupled with - combined with
safeguards - protections
abuse - cruel, violent or unfair treatment โหดเหี้ยม ทารุณ
abuse - to use or treat someone or something wrongly or badly, especially in a way that is to your own advantage ใช้ในทางที่ผิด
minimise - to reduce something harmful or unpleasant to the smallest amount or degree ลดจำนวนลง, ลดให้เหลือน้อยที่สุด
impact - an effect or influence ผลกระทบ
fiscal - connected with the government budget, i.e., public money เกี่ยวกับงบประมาณ
fiscal standing - whether the government is greatly in debt or not (from borrowing to pay for government spending that went beyond taxes)
rice pledging programme - same as "crop mortgage programme" above
paddy - rice after it has been harvested from the field ข้าวเปลือก
current - of the present time ปัจจุบัน
decried - denounced, criticized, did not accept as good, thought it was bad
platform - policy platform, the policies that a political party has that attract votes help it win an election
inefficient - not efficient (could produce more from the resources it has)
loophole - a legal way around a law, imperfections in a law that allow people to avoid the law (and do something the law was meant to prevent)
fraught with loopholes - the law has many ways that people can get around it
intermediaries - businesses that buy and re-sale goods between the factory and the store where it is finally sold to customers
rice mills - factories which process rice and package it into a product that can be sold in stores
insurance - a system of protection against loss, when someone else (insurance company, government) takes a risk for you, usually for a fee (can also do this by hedging with commodity futures contracts) (See Wikipedia) การประกัน (การประกันความเสี่ยง ประกันราคา)
efficient - producing a lot using few resources, doing a task with no waste of time, money or energy
means - methods; ways วิธี, วิธีการ
scheme - a plan that is developed by a government or large organisation in order to provide a particular service for people แผนการ โครงการ
a new twist - something new and different from before
purchase - buy
key - important คนสำคัญ
fertiliser - food for plants, a natural (manure) or chemical substance which is spread on the land or given to plants, to make plants grow well ปุ๋ย (See Wikipedia)
gear - the special clothes and equipment that you use for a particular activity
farming gear - special equipment used for farming
expected - believe will happen คาดว่า (จะเกิดขึ้น)
pledged - promised สาบาน
crops pledged to the mortgage programme - crops given to the government in exchange for a loan (supposed to serve as security, but actually farmers never redeem the crops)
holdings - things that you own
land holdings - land that someone owns
input - something such as energy, money or information that is put into a system, organisation or machine so that it can operate
accessible - available, can be used if needed
guard against - protect against, make safe and make sure a bad event does not occur
excessive - much greater than is usual; too much of something มากเกินปริมาณที่พอดี
deputy - the person whose rank is immediately below that of the leader of an organisation รอง, ตัวแทน,ผู้รักษาการแทน
finance - to provide money for something จัดหาเงินทุนให้
finance minister - the high-level government official in charge of government finances (budgeting and planning government spending or "expenditures" and also the taxes used to pay for it as well as the borrowing used to make up the difference when taxes do not cover and pay for spending)
settle - to reach a decision or an agreement about something, or to end a disagreement แก้ปัญหา
bills - money owed to others that must be paid quickly
settle bills - pay bills, pay people and companies money you owe them for goods and services you purchased
harvest - gather in ripe crops เก็บเกี่ยว, การเก็บเกี่ยวผลผลิต
funds - money needed or available to spend on something เงินทุน
profit - money that you make from selling goods and services after all your costs have been paid กำไร
efficiency - waste little time, energy and resources in doing a task (minimize time, energy and resources in performing a task) (See glossary) การทำงานอย่างมีประสิทธิภาพ คุ้มค่าเวลาและใช้พลังงานหรือต้นทุนในการผลิตน้อย เพื่อให้ได้ผลผลิตมาก
corruption - (See Wikipedia on bribery, corporate corruption, and political corruption)
X mirrors Y - X shows Y, Y can be seen through X, X reflects Y
Kisan credit card - a credit card system in India that provides credit and loans to farmers when they need it to plant their crops, charges an interest rate (See Wikipedia)
provide credit - give loans
credit lines - money that can be borrowed from the bank if need (example: the company had a pre-approved credit line of one million baht available at the bank if it needed it)
interest - payments made for the use of another's money for a period of time
restricted - limited or controlled ซึ่งถูกยับยั้ง, ซึ่งถูกควบคุม
annually - happening every year ทุกๆปีด
guarantee - a promise that something will be done or will happen คำรับรอง, การประกัน (See glossary)
boost - to increase; to strengthen เพิ่ม; ทำให้มีกำลังมากขึ้น
substance - based on accurate or true information มีมูล
cash - money เงินสด
cash flow - money coming into and going out of a business, important for day to day operations (for example: if a business may not collect money owed to it from sales, it may not have enough money for day-to-day operations)
loan - an amount of money that a person, business or country borrows เงินกู้
loan sharks - illegal money lenders
struggled with - tried to solve a difficult problem with great effort
debt - an amount of money that you owe หนี้
charges - a payment that has to be made for something เงินที่เรียกเก็บ
make ends meet - earn money to pay for things you and your family need to live (food, clothes, shelter)
bonds - when a company borrows money by issueing many small "securities" (with paper certificates) to many people (like stocks but debt)
fiscal expenses - government spending
advancing funds - lending money
practice - a way of doing something การปฏิบัติ
X extended to Y - the group of things Y will also become part of programme X
tapioca - cassava, an important food source of carbohydrates, also source of ethanol car fuel (See Wikipedia) มันสำปะหลัง
dismissed - considered something to be unimportant or not good enough to be taken seriously แย้งกลับ โต้กลับ, refused to accept that something might be true or important ปฏิเสธ
concerns - worries ความกังวล
competitiveness - how well a business can do compared to other firms (does it have lower price or higher quality?) การแข่งขัน
encourage - cause someone to gain enthusiasm, motivation, and energy in what they are doing ปลุกใจ
leave - time take off from work, either paid or unpaid การพักงาน a period of time when you are not working at your job, doing something else (for example, "medical leave" to receive medical treatment)
beef up - improve, make stronger
fund - to provide money for something เงินทุน กองทุน
initiative - a new plan for dealing with a problem or achieving some goal ความคิดริเริ่ม
debt moratorium - a period of time during which some people do not have to make payments on their loans (a delay in paying paying back loans, to help people who are having problems paying them back)
refinancing - replace an existing loan with a better loan (with lower interest rate or terms)
apply - to make use of something นำมาใช้
industrialization - when an economy moves towards manufacturing and away from traditional farming as a money earner
decades - periods of ten years เป็นสิบๆปี
contribution - something that you do that helps to achieve something or to make it successful ผลงาน,การช่วยเหลือ
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) - the mesured income for a whole economy
labour force - all the workers in an economy (+ those out of work too)
decisive - making the final result of a situation completely certain แน่วแน่
factor - a fact or situation which influences the result of something ปัจจัย
decisive factor - the thing that determines the outcome of some event (such as an election)
taking a step backward - not progressing, not improving things, instead making the situation worse
policy - a set of plans or action agreed on by a government, political party, business, or other group นโยบาย a plan of action to guide decisions and achieve outcomes (See Wikipedia)
development - the gradual growth and formation of something
maize - corn ข้าวโพด (See Wikipedia)
strains - varieties
new seed strains - new kinds of plant seeds for crops (that make growing large amounts of crops easier)
expansion - when something increases in size, number or importance การขยายออก
irrigation - the process of bringing water to land through a system of pipes, ditches, etc. in order to make crops grow ระบบชลประทาน (See Wikipedia)
vows - promises, declares they will do
accelerate - to cause to happen more quickly เร่ง
reform - a change that is intended to correct a situation that is wrong or unfair การแก้ไข การปฏิรูป
land reform - government programmes to help poor farmers get land to farm
soil development -
secure - to get or achieve something การได้มาซึ่ง
secure farmland - when poor farmers get some land to farm crops on
official - approved by the government or some authority ที่เป็นทางการ
income - money that people receive from work or some other source, used for household consumption and savings
availability - they exist and people can use them
benefits - money, services, or goods you receive from a government or company programme เงินช่วยเหลือ
remote - far away from cities, difficult to get to ไกล, ที่ห่างไกลจากความเจริญ (ของเมือง)\
redeem - take back something you deposited and kept at a place for a time (example: redeem the luggage you kept in storage at the airport for one week)
the onus is on X to do Y - the responsibility, the burden
state - government รัฐ
stockpile - a large collection of things that may be needed คลังสินค้า store large amounts of something for future use จำนวนสินค้าที่เก็บตุนไว้เป็นจำนวนมาก
deteriorate - to become worse เลวร้ายลง
administration - one government that a country has for a period of time
effective - works well, gets the job done, producing the result that was intended ได้ผลดี
prop up prices - keep prices at a certain level, prevent prices from falling
has at its disposal - is available to them and can be used (if they want)
measure - an action taken to solve a particular problem มาตรการ
manipulate - to control something or someone to your advantage, often unfairly or dishonestly ชักใย
flaws - mistakes, things that are not perfect about something
plots - pieces of land
prompting - causing
split - to divide ทำให้แตกแยก
essentials - the important basic things that are needed for daily living (food, clothes, shelter)
allocated - given for a special purpose or use
community - the people living in one particular area ชุมชน
state-owned property - land and buildings owned by the government
security - the need to provide safety from attack, harm or damage ความปลอดภัย
social security - government program to provide financial help to individuals and families facing problems such as unemployment, disability or early death of the breadwinner of the household
informal - not official
informal workers - workers that do not have permanent jobs in companies, temporary hires or self-employed people that do not receive benefits or have job security during bad economic times
nationwide - throughout a whole country ทั่วทั้งประเทศ
distribution chains - the process of delivering goods to many people การจำหน่ายออกไป