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B1.4bn boost ‘no cure’ for financial woe

B1.4bn boost ‘no cure’ for financial woe

BANGKOK: The B1.4 billion disbursed from state coffers to reduce the cost of living for three months presents no solution to runaway consumer prices which require long-term measures to tackle, a consumer forum was told yesterday (Jan 24).

By Bangkok Post

Tuesday 25 January 2022, 09:20AM

The rising cost of diesel is just one factor that has contributed to an increase in living costs. Photo: Bangkok Post

The rising cost of diesel is just one factor that has contributed to an increase in living costs. Photo: Bangkok Post

The Thailand Consumers Council (TCC) organised a discussion on the B1.4bn approved from the central budget to fund measures and programmes to bring down the cost of living for a period of three months, report the Bangkok Post.

Detrat Sukkumnerd, director of the Think Forward Center, told the forum the money was insufficient to meet the long-term needs of consumers since it covers only three months.

Consumer product price rises, he noted, tend to be protracted and can trigger a chain reaction. For example, the surging price of pork pushes prices of other meats and eggs up as people turn to less expensive sources of protein.

He estimated the pork price fiasco might take as long as 18 months to solve, far outlasting the funds made available.

Mr Detrat suggested the government set clear guidelines on the measures to be launched to tame both the pork and oil price surges.

The government should announce on a daily basis what measures are being launched to combat the price rises, which could have a positive psychological effect on consumers.

Water and power bills should be subsidised for at least six months to ease the financial burden on people, he said.

However, Mr Detrat disagreed with raising the minimum wage at this time, saying it would only aggravate inflation.

The forum also heard from Biothai Foundation director Witoon Lianchamroon who said the problem with consumer goods price hikes should be resolved with an inclusive and participatory approach.

Citing a previous pork price spike in the US, he said the problem was alleviated after all sides in the supply chain came together for talks. Subsequently, pork prices dropped by 15-20% and other meats by 2%.

In Thailand, two large companies dominate 45% of the domestic pork market between them. The dominance puts consumers at a disadvantage and poses a risk to food security, he added.

The government must create a level playing field in the market, which will work better than immediate fixes such as selling pork at state-subsidised prices.

He added that importing pigs to make up for the shortfall in domestic supply was unavoidable.

Mr Witoon said state funds should be diverted to assisting low-income people as half of their household expenses go on buying food.

Meanwhile, TCC secretary-general Saree Aongsomwang told the forum a longer-term measure must be sustainable.

She added the Pig Board, which acts as the pig and pork products development policy committee, must be restructured to include consumer representatives.

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