BANGKOK– With Thailand heading into a general election in May, key political parties are promising the nation’s more than 50 million voters almost everything from steep increases in cash handouts and wages to suspending debt repayment.
Pledges from the top nine parties so far will require about 3.14 trillion baht (S$121 billion) per year, after excluding their overlapping policies, according to an analysis by Thailand Development Research Institute. The litany of promises from two parties will require 2 trillion baht each per year to implement, the institute said.
Now that Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha has ordered the dissolution of parliament, campaigning will be more turbocharged than ever leading to a vote that the Election Commission has penciled in for May 7, although the final date has yet to be confirmed.
The assurance of largesses without spelling out funding sources are alarming some analysts, who point to the already stretched Thai public finances and fragile economic recovery from the pandemic. South-east Asia’s second-largest economy borrowed 1.5 trillion baht during Covid to finance various stimulus measures and lifted the public debt ceiling to 70 per cent of gross domestic product to create room for larger funding.
With a large section of Thai society, especially the daily-wage earners, farmers and small and medium enterprises, still reeling from the impact of the pandemic, Pheu Thai, the party leading in pre-election surveys, has vowed to almost double daily minimum wages by 2027. While supporters cheered the proposal, opponents and some economists disapproved, saying that would destroy businesses and fuel inflation.
Not to be left behind, Prayuth’s United Thai Nation Party plans to more than triple cash handouts to about 15 million welfare cardholders to 1,000 baht a month, mo...