Prayut urges regional development, aid to poor

Prayut urges regional development, aid to poor

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday instructed state agencies to map out budgets for fiscal 2019 to focus on regional development and the country's 20-year national strategic plan to reduce income disparity.

Speaking to 1,600 chiefs of state agencies and state officials, the premier also gave them the guidelines to design the 2019 budget plan so it conforms with the 12th National Economic and Social Development Plan.

The 12th plan set a target for per capita income of US$8,200 (286,500 baht), up from $6,400 now, while the 20-year national strategy aims to raise per capita income to $12,600 by 2036.

The plan aims to raise Thailand's world competitiveness ranking to 25th, with export growth averaging 4% and tourism revenue of 3 trillion baht a year.

Thailand's world competitiveness ranking edged up one spot this year to 27th, helped by improvements in the economy and the institutional framework. The World Competitiveness Center, a research group at IMD Business School in Switzerland, compiles the rankings.

Improvements in the adaptability of government, central bank policy and the effectiveness of government decisions also led to the higher spot.

To achieve its goals, Thailand needs to secure annual average economic growth of 5% a year. Thailand's expenditure on research and development should reach 1.5% of GDP in 2021 when the 12th plan ends.

Gen Prayut told the state agencies to make their fiscal 2019 budget conform with six strategies: national security, competitiveness enhancement, human resource development, poverty reduction, better water management and bureaucratic reform. He recommended surveying the requirements of each region for development agendas rather than using piecemeal projects.

"Most importantly, development projects should set a target to narrow income disparity," he said.

The government wants to raise the income of low-income earners who earn less than 100,000 baht a year as soon as possible, Gen Prayut said. Up to 14 million people who earn less than 100,000 baht a year have registered with government agencies, and the premier said 12-13 million people are likely qualified for state aid measures.

Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong said last week that a new aid package worth 46 billion baht for low-income earners will go before the cabinet for approval in the next few weeks.

The package covers free rides on public buses and trains, subsidies on utility bills, and fares on inter-provincial buses. It is scheduled to come into force on Oct 1, the start of fiscal 2018. Funding will come from the Pracha Rat Fund for Low-Income Earners worth 50 billion baht.

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