Rich landowners need to be taxed more to close income gap, Thai forum told

Rich landowners need to be taxed more to close income gap, Thai forum told
Skyline of Bangkok, Thailand, November 2009.

An improved land-tax system and fairer budget allocation are key to eradicating inequalities in society, a public forum was told.

"About 20 per cent of the Thai population who are the lowest income earners hold just 0.25 per cent of [the total] land in the country," Associate Professor Duangmanee Laowakul said at the forum on "Eradicating Social Inequality, Lessening Thai Social Crisis".

Organised by Krungthep Turakij newspaper and the NOW26 TV station, the event was part of the Citizens' Forum for Reform Initiative. Both media outlets, like The Nation, are under the umbrella of the Nation Multimedia Group.

Duangmanee, who studies land-related problems in the country, told the forum that the top 20 per cent of income earners owned 80 per cent of the country's land plots.

"Clearly, there is a really big gap," she said.

She said the country should introduce a progressive land-tax rate and income from the rate, which should apply to any landlord with plots of 50 rai (8 hectares) or more, could be held by a Land Bank and the money used to buy land for the landless poor.

Prapas Ngoksoong-ngern, a coordinator for a centre for landless Thais, said about 800,000 farmers had no land with which to make their living.

Speaking at the same forum, Reform Office deputy director Wanee Pinprateep suggested that about 5 per cent of the national budget (Bt100 billion (S$3.9 billion)) should be used for the eradication of social inequality.

"For example, the money should go to provinces with a really high number of poor people or low per-capita income," she said.

There were also calls for serious attention to be given to community problems and that better protection be given to villagers whose land overlaps with forest reserves or national parks.

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