Thai government lays out policies to boost economy

AP News
Posted: Aug 23, 2011 8:09 AM
Thai government lays out policies to boost economy

Thailand's new prime minister said Tuesday that during its first 12 months in office her government will concentrate on promoting economic stability and reconciliation after years of political polarization.

First-year policies will also focus on cracking down on drugs, fighting corruption and peace building in the insurgency-plagued south, Yingluck Shinawatra said in her first policy statement to Parliament.

Thailand's first female premier, who was elected in early July, said the government would strengthen the nation's domestic economy, which has grown at only modest rates since the 2006 coup that deposed her brother Thaksin Shinawatra, as chronic political instability depressed consumer and business confidence.

Yingluck also said her government would work toward "a more balanced economic structure," appealing to the masses of rural voters who supported her Pheu Thai party in hopes of a better distribution of wealth in the country of 68 million.

During its first year, her government will sharply increase the minimum wage, give tax exemptions to people buying their first home and car, and give tablet computers to primary school students, she said.

Critics said the policies were not sustainable and aimed at securing political support rather than dealing with pressing economic issues.

"These populist policies are benefiting the groups who are the support base of the government," said Somchai Phagaphasvivat, a political science lecturer at Bangkok's Thammasat University.

In the long-term, they could lead to inflation, budget deficits and public debt, he said.

In an effort to promote political reconciliation, Yingluck said her government plans to pay reparations to the people hurt by the political violence that has gripped the country off and on since before the military overthrew Thaksin in September 2006.

The political divide left Bangkok a battleground for two months last year as anti-government demonstrations by former Prime Minister Thaksin's supporters deteriorated into violence, leaving 91 people dead and more than 1,400 injured.