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Thailand's new PM draws flak in parliament for 'aimless' economic agenda

Thailand's new PM draws flak in parliament for 'aimless' economic agenda
Thailand's Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin delivers the policy statements of the Council of Ministers to the parliament, in Bangkok, Thailand, Sept 11, 2023.
PHOTO: Reuters

BANGKOK — Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin came under fire in parliament on Monday (Sept 11) over a new government policy agenda that opposition lawmakers called vague and short of some of his party's boldest election pledges.

Real estate tycoon Srettha was approved as prime minister in a parliamentary vote last month after his populist Pheu Thai Party, the second-place finisher in a May election, agreed to lead a coalition government that included parties backed by its fierce rival, the military.

Srettha confirmed his agenda before parliament on Monday which included digital cash handouts, lowering energy prices and relaxing visa rules to boost tourism.

But Move Forward, the progressive opposition party that won the election but was blocked by army-backed lawmakers from forming a government, said Pheu Thai's plan lacked specifics.

"This is aimless. There are no clear goals, no time frame and budget," said Move Forward legislator Sirikanya Tansakul, during a marathon debate scheduled to end late on Tuesday.

"The policy statement needs to have details... it should not be a wish-list."

The new administration adopts an economy that is expected to grow 2.8 per cent this year, below a previous forecast of 3.6 per cent.

Srettha, who is also finance minister, said his signature policy — a 10,000 baht (S$383.34) giveaway via a digital wallet to all Thais over the age of 16 — would "re-awaken" the economy.

"We will inject capital into all dimensions of the economy, to create spending, improve lives and create opportunities for businesses and employment," he said, adding it would lay down a digital foundation for the country.

But some questioned its sources of funds for a project that will cost 560 billion baht, including Move Forward's Sirikanya, who asked if political newcomer Srettha intended to "start governing by destroying fiscal discipline".

The Democrat Party's Jurin Laksanawisit, who was recently commerce minister, asked what had happened to some of the pledges made to the public to win votes.

"You promised a 25,000 baht salary for new graduates, but it is not mentioned," he said.

"Is this a ninja policy that just disappears?"

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