The new government plans to introduce inheritance and land/property taxes before the end of the year as part of its goal to broaden the tax base in the new fiscal year, which starts next month, Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha said yesterday in his policy address.
Prayuth said the tax collection system would be restructured to ensure personal and corporate income tax is collected efficiently. Also, new taxes, such as duties on inheritance as well as land and property, would be brought in.
"Tax collection in this new fiscal year will be broadened to boost state revenue and promote fairness. This will include inheritance and land taxes," the premier reiterated. "This would have a limited impact on low-income earners, while tax benefits that favour the rich will be eliminated."
He also noted that only some 20 million of Thailand's 68 million people paid taxes.
Prayuth, who also heads the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), spent about two hours delivering his policy statement before the National Legislative Assembly (NLA).
He also said the policies were expected to have successful results within a year, provided everybody stepped in and helped push for the country's sustainable growth.
"It's no use having grand-sounding policies unless you put them into action," Prayuth said.
After delivering the speech, Prayuth excused himself saying he had to go inspect the flooding in Sukhothai province.
The NLA members praised Prayuth's policies, and other than offering a couple of proposals, they came up with no points that need to be debated by Cabinet.
It appeared that yesterday's assembly was a celebration, with a proposal or two thrown in, rather than a session for critical examination and regulation of government policies. Most NLA members who stood up to make remarks were former bureaucrats, academics, businessmen and ex-senators. Military officers, meanwhile, remained quiet.
The air of fierce exchanges, the raising of hands in protest and the generally tense atmosphere that usually marks debates in the Thai parliament were conspicuously missing yesterday.
"I would like to applaud the administration policy, particularly the one on protecting and honouring the monarchy... a practical framework has been laid down so relevant public organisation can operate more effectively," NLA member and academic Taweesak Suthakavatin said.
"The government's policies meet the people's needs... These polices are based on His Majesty's philosophy of sufficient economy... I have every confidence in them," forestry expert Sanit Aksornkaew said in his opening statement.
"I'd like to applaud the government's policies, which cover all of the [reform] dimensions," businessman Isara Vongkusolkit said.
Politicians have voiced concern on whether the NLA, which was handpicked by the NCPO, could effectively perform the task of policy regulation by engaging in critical debate.
Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva called on NLA members to do their duty by cchecking all national policies closely.
The media also paid a great deal of attention to yesterday's meeting, with an unusually large number of reporters turning up at Parliament.
Some reporters were refused entry to the media zone, as it was packed with journalists.
Some 186 of 192 NLA members showed up for yesterday's meeting, and Prayuth, dressed in a light grey suit and tie, was one of the last to arrive. He appeared to be in high spirits, and even made light-hearted, witty remarks while delivering his policy statement.
"I was nervous last night because I was worried I would have a tough time delivering this speech," he joked.
He also dismissed rumours of having a very big bank balance.
"There was a rumour that I told a bank official to hide my assets of Bt28 billion. If this rumour were true, I wouldn't be standing here. I would have handed it over to farmers and built something valuable for the country... and I would have just gone on vacation," he said.
In his speech, Prayuth also mentioned the need to reform the national railway system, saying that existing passenger trains were far too old.
Last night, Prayuth said that he now has "more peace of mind" after announcing his policy statement.
"As prime minister, I have more peace of mind now, as we have proceeded according to regulations and in existing traditions - which is to announce policies for national administration to the NLA and the people of Thailand," he said in his weekly TV programme "Returning Happiness to People in the Country".
The PM told the audience that his government's policies are based on His Majesty the King's principle of "understanding, reaching out and development", and the Royal philosophy of sufficiency economy.