Populist ideas don't last
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Populist ideas don't last

In every general election, people have expectations of the new government that emerge after the contest. At the very least, they expect campaign promises to be partially fulfilled, if not all of them.

But as it turns out, government after government has failed to keep their campaign promises, including ones on fundamental issues, such as tackling corruption in the government and carrying out bureaucratic reform.

The government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, for example, has not done anything concrete to carry out much-needed police reform because it simply lacks the political will to do so.

The administration also lacks the genuine sincerity to tackle the deeply entrenched corruption problems in government bureaucracies from the local to the national level.

Not even the National Anti-Corruption Commission has been spared a graft scandal.

Prayat Puangjumpa, deputy secretary-general of the corruption watchdog, was dismissed in August after he was accused of being "unusually rich" for amassing about 658 million baht in assets.

Many populist policies, apparently designed to gain voter support, have been proposed by political parties during their pre-election campaigning this year, including giving a 3,000-baht allowance to pensioners, increasing the minimum wage for workers, implementing a debt moratorium to zero income tax for some and disbursing 10,000 baht in "digital" money to 50 million Thais over 16 years old.

According to a recent survey by the Thailand Development Research Institute, at least 3 trillion baht will be required to fulfil 87 populist policies promised by nine political parties.

So now the big questions are: Where will this staggering amount of money come from? Will the government have to borrow from state-owned banks, a move that will likely drive public debt sky-high?

Most of these populist policies are short-term remedies aimed at increasing consumer purchasing power to keep businesses running and expanding.

They may stimulate the economy in the short term, but once the money runs out, the economic engine will sputter.

The welfare card system initiated by the Prayut government in 2016 for people who earn less than 30,000 baht per year is a good example of a desperate piecemeal project that does not address the real problem.

Poor workers need permanent jobs with fair wages, while poor farmers need fair prices for their crops, not monthly giveaways of 200–300 baht from the government.

What the people in cities need are secure jobs with fair compensation, while rural inhabitants who rely on agriculture as a means to make a living want fair prices for their produce and better access to markets without a high dependency on middlemen.

People want to see changes after the election, or at least changes for the betterment of their livelihoods, quality of life and environment, among other basic changes, which will not be realised through short-term populist policies.

After the failures of governments in the past, the people have the right to make their demands, which are sensible or reasonable, heard and heeded.

Political parties have an obligation to respond to their needs and aspirations.

Otherwise, they should not be a part of a government in the first place.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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