Opposition slams govt's 'failing' policy
Big business 'reaps most of the gains'
The opposition on Sunday slammed the government for its "failing economic policy" and criticised its 10-point plan to ease the impact of increasing fuel prices stemming from the Ukraine-Russia crisis.
Key opposition figures gathered in Nan to attend a forum on the government's handling of the economy.
Opposition leader Cholnan Srikaew said the country's public debt has soared to almost 10 trillion baht, and the Prayut Chan-o-cha administration has also failed to tackle issues surrounding high living costs.
"Everyone is going bust," Dr Cholnan, who is also leader of the Pheu Thai Party, said.
Wisut Chainaroon, Pheu Thai MP for Phayao, said people have seen their money drained away since the government came to power eight years ago.
Only a handful of rich businesses have benefited from its economic policy, he said.
The prices of cash crops have plunged while the cost of fertilisers and pesticides have gone up. "Money from the farmers ended up in the hands of big businesses," Mr Wisut said.
Sirikanya Tansaku, list MP for the Move Forward Party, attacked the government's 10-point plan to mitigate the impact of high fuel prices. The government had admitted that its measures were unable to tackle the runaway prices of diesel and gas, she said.
The measures were intended to help welfare cardholders, but there were about 3 million people so the scope was rather limited, she said, adding the measures are not specifically focusing on easing the energy crisis.
However, government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana insisted that at least 40 million people are expected to benefit from the 10-point plan.
He said the measures, which will require a budget of at least 50 billion baht, can help alleviate economic hardship, particularly for low-income families.
The measures include a fuel tariff for some 20 million households, social security contribution reductions for 11.2 million members, relief for 9 million farmers suffering from high fertiliser prices and increase in the state cooking gas subsidy for 3.6 million state welfare cardholders. The measures were welcomed by business and sector leaders when unveiled last week.
Mr Thanakorn said the government is committed to cushioning the effects of the disrupted global energy supply, adding Covid-19 relief programmes also are ongoing.
The measures are meant to sustain the transport and labour sectors, he said, adding the measures also observe the need for fiscal discipline.
Rejecting the opposition's claim that the policies had failed, Mr Thanakorn said the country's financial strength remained solid with a comfortable 400-500 billion baht in liquidity. The government is on course to achieving its revenue collection target of 2.4 trillion baht this year.
International reserves in the first two months of the year stood at US$245 billion (8.2 trillion baht), enough to withstand the current global economic fluctuation, he said.