An Open letter to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra

An Open letter to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra

An open letter to Yingluck Shinawatra in full text.

Feb 6, 2014

Prime Minister,

Since you assumed the role of caretaker prime minister following the House dissolution on Dec 9, 2013, your government has failed to accomplish many important missions.

First, your government has not been able to pay farmers for the rice they sold under your rice-pledging policy. Your government has kept millions of farmers waiting for several months for their payments. Their sufferings have become widespread. Their frustration and protests have increased.

The government cannot pay the farmers because it cannot provide enough funds for the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BACC) to operate the scheme as planned.

Your government set the budget for the 2013/2014 crop year at 270 billion baht. The plan was for the BACC to issue 140 billion baht bonds to be guaranteed by the Ministry of Finance. The remaining 130 billion baht would come from rice sales from last year’s stockpiles.

The truth, however, is from the time the government announced its plan in October 2013, to the time when it announced the House dissolution in December, the bonds under the Finance Ministry guarantee of 140 billion baht were not issued. And since November 2013, the Commerce Ministry has only managed to sell 40 billion baht in rice sales, which is significantly lower that the 130 billion baht target.

In essence, the delay by the Finance Ministry to issue the BACC bonds and the inability by the Commerce Ministry to sell rice caused the BACC to lack sufficient funds to pay farmers.

The failure to operate this flagship policy is the direct result of your government’s lack of ability and nothing else.

The second example I would like to highlight shows the government’s inability to manage simple projects and policies. This example is a project under the Energy Ministry, which launched a solar rooftops project for the private sector to generate solar power for sale to the electricity authorities.

The scheme attracted more than 1,000 residential applicants and over 200 businesses. Most of them have completed their contracts to sell solar power to the state utilities. Most of the private power producers also finished installing the solar rooftops.

However, they are not allowed to connect to the state utilities’ power grid because the Industrial Works Department (under the Industry Ministry) has ruled that generating power by solar rooftops is classified as a factory. Therefore, these small-scale producers must obtain an operating license called a Ror Ngor 4 before they can produce electricity for sale.

This clearly shows that the Industry Ministry is not interested in supporting the Energy Ministry even though both belong to the same government.

This example clearly illustrates your government’s inability to iron out a simple inter-agency conflict.

Third, on Dec 25, 2013, as Prime Minister you declared to the mass media that you were prepared to issue a Prime Minister’s Order enabling the public to select representatives from their respective professions to form a reform assembly. It was your intention to address the desire of protesters who are calling for an establishment of a ‘’people’s council’’ to reform the country.

As it turned out, no private sector organisations have risen or responded to your call. No one trusts or believes that the government will support genuine reform. They are concerned that the government could have a hidden agenda. The protestors have also rejected the government’s offer. The People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) does not have confidence that the government would pursue the reform agenda with sincerity.

These reactions prove that a large group of people and several business organizations have no faith in you, nor do they trust your government.

The people want the country to go through a serious, genuine and comprehensive reform. But they also want the process – the establishment of the reform council and selection of its members – to be initiated and supervised by “neutral people’’ whom they trust, which is definitely not your government.

This crisis of confidence, which you and your government are facing, stems from your failure to run the country properly. It is because you have ignored the country’s problems for too long. You have neglected tackling corruption. You do not try to prevent incidents of graft that have already occurred from recurring.

The most glaring case in point is the rice-pledging scheme that has caused massive damage to the national budget. The scheme’s accounting committee appointed by your Cabinet informed you that the project would incur losses of more than 100 billion baht.

Many experts from the private sector have provided more information and pointed out that the losses could rise to several hundred billion baht by the time the government sells all its stockpiles. They have also indicated how vulnerable the project is to corruption.

Instead of taking the information seriously and searching for more facts in order to tackle the problems effectively, your government chose to dismiss the chairperson of the accounting committee who unveiled the potential damage. This was apparently aimed at sweeping the serious problems of this scheme under the carpet.

Worst still, your government provided distorted information to the public about this scheme and its implementation. Instead of reviewing past damages and finding alternative methods to help rice farmers without incurring further massive losses to the national budget, your government ploughed on with the same damaging pledging scheme.

Your government has never considered the disastrous effect of the scheme on the national budget. It does not care how much corruption could occur.

This is a flagrant abuse of administrative power. This is the reason why a great number of people and several other private sector organisations have lost faith and confidence in you and your government. This severe loss of faith and confidence is the reason why you are unable to administer the country and move it forward.

The lack of faith and confidence also extends to suspicions that corruption exists in key government infrastructure and megaprojects whether it be the 350-billion baht water management scheme and the 2 trillion baht infrastructure project. It’s a sad state of affairs when it does not matter what the government says. The perception is already there with large segments of the population that corrupt practices exist in these megaprojects.

Without public confidence, it would be very difficult for your government to launch these projects, which would have helped support the country’s economic growth.

A government that is incapable of implementing its own policies such as the rice-pledging and solar rooftops scheme; that has lost the respect from a large number of people and business leaders; that does not care for massive damage to the country’s finances; that refuses to investigate corruption but also allows indecent practices to continue can only be regarded as a failed government.

Such a failed government is not in a position to run the country and has no hope of moving it forward. The damage would be less if your caretaker role spans a short period of time. But the damage will continue because the Feb 2 general election has proven to be problematic.

Protestors have succeeded in obstructing the polls in various ways starting with preventing candidate registration, blocking distribution of ballots and shutting down polling stations.

With the election incomplete, there would not be enough Members of Parliament declared to meet the 95% rule for parliament to convene. Consequently, a new government cannot be formed. Many more re-elections must be held before the country can have a full parliament of 500 members.

With anti-government protest is still ongoing, it is likely the re-elections will drag on for a lengthy period. There are two reasons. First, a great number of protestors do not want your party to return as the government. These people will continue to block the election process.

Second, re-elections at polling units that were forced to close and in the 28 constituencies where there were no candidates could put the entire general election at risk of being nullified by the Constitution Court or Administrative Court as the law stipulates that the general election must be held on the same day.

The intent of this law is to ensure that the general election produces a fair result. If the court nullifies the entire election, we will have to start the whole process anew. Nobody knows how long this will take.

In this situation the country’s governance will remain unclear for an unknown period. And it is likely that should your government – already deemed as a failed government – continues in its caretaker capacity, protests would intensify. The reason is simple – a large number of people do not want you or your government to administer the country.

A continuation of this situation would only inflict more damage to the economy. Thai tourism would suffer even more. Investments in projects that would boost the country’s economic growth would stop because of fears of corruption.

Confidence of the private sector – international and domestic – would decline to the stage where it would stall or stop. The economy will slow down significantly, probably ending up with a zero growth. Unemployment, which has started to climb up, will increase further.

Most importantly, people will be in a state of despair and this situation could trigger further violence and at a level higher than the incidents we have already experienced.

But if your government truly holds the country’s interest at heart and decides to resign from the caretaker role, the protesters would end their rallies.

The resignation is possible under the democratic process when an administration finds that it can no longer govern the country. The current constitution opens a way for an appointment of outsiders to run the country on an interim basis.

The resignation will allow civil services and business in the country to return to normal. With full authority, the new government will be able to roll out projects that will bring immediate benefits to the country and its people.

Consisting of ‘’neutral people’’ well recognised by the public, the new government will have no problems drawing representatives from different sectors to join hands and cooperate on how to reform the country effectively.

Once the country has returned to peace, all economic activities will also carry on as normal. Thailand will return to growth and will step into the future smoothly.

A good leader has to choose the country first when the time comes. I hope that my open letter will help you make a proper decision to stop the ongoing damage for the sake of the country and its people.

Respectfully yours,

MR Pridiyathorn Devakula

MR Pridiyathorn Devakula is former deputy prime minister and finance minister, and former governor of the Bank of Thailand.

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