Thailand 'third most unequal'

Thailand 'third most unequal'

Thailand has been ranked the world's third most unequal nation after Russia and India, with a constantly widening gap between rich and poor, despite the reduced number of poor living under the poverty line, according to Oxfam Thailand's 2016 report.

The inequality in the country isn't only shown in economic aspects but also in lifestyle, education and health care, said Oxfam's advocacy and campaign coordinator Chakchai Chomthongdee.

To tackle inequality, both the public and private sectors should lend a hand, he said, adding a higher progressive tax rate should be levied, while education, healthcare and wages should also be improved.

Poor people are most affected from inequality, he stressed.

He was speaking at a seminar held by Oxfam in Bangkok where the report on inequality in Thailand was released. Sharing their views on inequality were managing director of sustainable business accelerator Sal Forest, Sarinee Achavanuntakul, former transport minister, Chadchart Sittipunt, and The Four Regions Slum Network's leader, Nuchanart Taenthong.

According to the report, Thailand's 2014 GDP was high enough to eliminate poverty in the country.

However, 10% of the population remain below the poverty line.

In the past seven years, Thai billionaires rose from five to 28 people.

In 2013, 20% of the richest people earned 52% of the country's total income, and 10% of the richest people earned 35 times more than 10% of the poorest people. "Inequality is caused by unequal opportunities," Mr Chadchart, who is now CEO of Q-House, said.

The government has key duties of building growth and distributing income, he said. However, the government focused more on economic growth and GDP and failed to improve average income per capita.

The transport system also epitomises inequality, Mr Chadchart said. Buses -- the most accessible mode of transportation for lower-income people -- have not been improved in the past 10 years; the budget spent on the mode of transport is lower than that of electric trains.

The train system undeniably reflects the country's development, but those using the trains can afford condominiums, not the poor who hardly benefit from it, he said.

Ms Nuchanart said the urban poor have been affected by urban development of land and housing in the past few years, and eventually forced to move away from the city centre.

"We don't want to be poor but we don't have access to education and job opportunities," she said.

"That's why we have to live with this condition," she explained. Unable to afford famous schools, the poor have to enrol in lower-quality schools, resulting in less knowledge and end up working as labourers.

According to the report, university graduates are likely to earn two to four times more than primary school graduates.

An average salary in Bangkok is 2.5 times higher than in the Northeast.

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