Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has set a schedule for pressing economic issues related to agriculture, industry, and debt problems, including both formal loans and loan sharks.
During a keynote speech on Thursday at The Standard Economic Forum entitled "Future Ready Thailand", Mr Srettha said whether the Thai economy is in a state of crisis "is a matter of personal debate between me and the governor of the Bank of Thailand".
He said he is confident the majority of Thais agree with him that the current economic condition is poor.
The government has issued many measures to ease living costs, including lowering electricity and diesel prices, a farm debt moratorium, and a visa-free scheme for visitors from China and Kazakhstan.
Mounting household debt is a pressing economic issue and Mr Srettha said the government expects to announce a plan for dealing with black-market debt on Nov 28, in collaboration with the Department of Provincial Administration, while a strategy for formal debt will be addressed on Dec 12.
The problem of informal debt has long plagued Thailand, but has increased in severity over the past two decades, he said.
The interest rates on informal loans exceed the legal rates. During poor economic conditions, the impact of informal debt can lead vulnerable groups to commit suicide or become drug addicts, said Mr Srettha.
Informal debt is both the cause and consequence of many social and economic ills, he said.
Mr Srettha's speech focused on plans being formulated to deal with farming, water management and debt.
A policy to triple farmers' income in four years will be announced in mid-February 2024, said Mr Srettha.
He said the policy will include a water crisis prevention and mitigation plan for floods and drought, tapping new markets for agricultural products, managing the value chain, and suppressing imports of illegal agricultural products such as pork, beef and rubber, which has caused widespread disruption to domestic agricultural distribution and prices.
In terms of water management, there is an urgent need for water resource management in agriculture and disaster management to meet food and livelihood needs, said Mr Srettha.
Flooding and drought also require water management. Only one-third of rainfall can be stored for use in four areas: consumption, ecosystem services and conservation, agriculture, and industrial purposes.
"There is a promising opportunity in the global supply chain for Thailand to be the regional hub for the expansion of IT and semiconductor production bases worldwide, and water is critical for microchip production to rinse and clean silicon wafers as they are manufactured," he said.
The government is working with the Rice Department on the farmer income policy to accelerate the development of new rice varieties to meet market demand and enhance export competitiveness, said Mr Srettha.
The yield for Thai rice farmers is about 400 kilogrammes per rai, which is fairly low compared with 1,200kg per rai in China and 700-800kg in Vietnam, he said.
The annual budget of 300 million baht for R&D on rice is also paltry compared with 1 billion baht allocated by Vietnam's government, said Mr Srettha.
He said Thailand also needs to increase its soybean production for consumption and industrial purposes.
Thailand produces only 1% of the soybeans used domestically, while genetically modified organism (GMO) soybeans are imported as only non-GMO soybeans are allowed to be farmed in the country.
"We have to amend Notification No.431, which regulates the manufacture, import or sale of GMOs so that GMO soybeans can be grown," said Mr Srettha.
Natural rubber, another economic crop of Thailand, has a lower yield per rai than the yield in Malaysia.
Thailand needs to improve its soil fertility for rubber plantation by using fertiliser, according to soil and plant nutrient status, he said.
In addition, in mid-February next year Mr Srettha said the government plans to organise a large workshop on leveraging technology for the production and distribution of agricultural products to minimise the role of intermediaries, helping farmers to earn more income.
He recently unveiled a fresh approach to foreign policy, dubbed proactive diplomacy, aimed at empowering Thai representatives abroad to stimulate trade, investment and tourism, while enhancing Thailand's global influence.