Thai govt approves more measures to shore up economy, help farmers

Thai govt approves more measures to shore up economy, help farmers
Mr Pridiyathorn Devakula, Thai deputy prime minister.

The government has given the nod to two more measures to stimulate the economy and help farmers after requests from the private sector.

The Federation of Thai Industries on Tuesday urged the government to get moving with its small- and medium-scale projects and come up with ways to mitigate sluggish grass-roots demand caused by falling crop prices and rising household debt.

MR Pridiyathorn Devakula, the deputy prime minister in charge of the economy, said after the first meeting of the Economic Cabinet that was chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday that the new committee and the PM acknowledged stimulus measures proposed by the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) and the Transport Ministry.

The measures will be up for Cabinet approval next week.

"The measure that was proposed by the Transport Ministry would be worth about Bt40 billion and it would be funded by loans from abroad," Pridiyathorn said.

"The proposed measure came after the Finance Ministry revealed that there are loan channels from the old channels [previously used channels] that we can still seek more loans from.

"The projects are part of the Highways Department's plan to fix up provincial and rural roads that did not gain approval to be included in the normal budget," he said.

"This loan is not part of the normal budget and it is an added budget from loan. Once the Finance Ministry has successfully secured the loan from abroad, it will immediately swap it into baht to lower the foreign-exchange risk.

"We expect some of the capital to enter the economic system in the second half of this year," he said.

Pridiyathorn also provided an update on the repair work for the Education and Public Health ministries and for irrigation projects worth Bt23 billion that were part of the current military regime's Bt364.5-billion stimulus package approved last year after it seized power from the elected government.

"We are pinning our hopes on the first Bt23 billion to stimulate the economy in the first quarter of 2015 since some of the contracts were signed in January and this month.

"We expect the budget to be disbursed in March because these are small projects," he said.

The BAAC proposed three measures to tackle farmers' debts and non-performing loans (NPLs) at the state-run bank. They are debt relief, credit extensions and drought loans.

Debt relief would be offered to operators that have been indebted to the bank for a long time and clearly have no more ability to repay their loans.

Loans would be extended by one or two years for debtors and operators that still have the ability to repay.

Loans would be provided to farmers severely affected by drought to help with their recovery.

BAAC would gather data on how much these three measures would cost and how many farmers they would help before presenting them to the Cabinet next week.

Pridiyathorn also said the Transport Ministry would ask the Cabinet to change its resolution regarding the extension of the Bangkok transit system's Blue Line to connect with the Purple Line since its last ruling did not specify that the two lines should connect with each other.

The Purple Line should be up and running by October instead of next year, he added.

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