Published on November 12, 2007
Their economic platforms are similar, ranging from re-volving village funds, free medical care and education to big-ticket mass transit projects.
The People Power Party, a reincarnation of the defunct Thai Rak Thai, has made mega-projects a priority.
Leader Samak Sundaravej promised to deliver nine
electric-rail routes around Bangkok. This alone will cost the country Bt500 billion and take around six years.
It pledged Bt200 billion for farm irrigation, water reserves and forest conservation.
Major foreign-exchange earner tourism will get Bt100 billion for promotion and development and the party said it would attract more visitors to the Kingdom by declaring 2008 and 2009 tourism years.
People Power vowed to revive village funds, suspended by the Surayud government. Each of the 73,000 villages will be entitled to a revolving fund of Bt1 million. There will be
an additional Bt300,000 to Bt700,000 depending on size.
The party will promote small- and medium-sized enterprises with Bt20 billion to the SME Bank.
It will revive the "One Million Cows" initiative where the government will buy and lend cattle to farmers.
The party pledged to abolish the 30-per-cent reserve re-quirement imposed by the Bank of Thailand to discourage short-term capital from moving into and out of the country quickly.
The Democrat Party economic policy is a combination of investment-friendly ideas and populism, designed to appeal to upcountry voters.
Leader Abhisit Vejjajiva made it clear a Democrat-led government would be different economically from the military-backed Surayud government, especially in private investment.
It will abolish the 30-per-cent reserve requirement and review controversial foreign business laws, which have dismayed foreign investors.
It will raise the minimum wage and curb petrol prices.
Democrat economic policy focuses on five areas - economic structure, tax and budgets, government efficiency, law and regulations and capital- and financial-market development.
It opposes oil subsidies implemented by the Thaksin administration because of the debt burden they incur. It will instead increase dividends PTT pays to shareholders, including the government. It will use this to clear the Oil Fund's current debts.
It will collect "special taxes" from gas exports and use these to reduce domestic prices.
Instead of village funds, the party will establish a "sufficiency fund" to develop rural Thailand. The fund will finance produce storage and provide long-term loans.
Free education to high-school level is promised.
A Democrat government would create 400,000 jobs and increase real gross domestic product per capita to more than US$3,000 (Bt101,700).
It will develop national rail and accelerate the seven mass-transit line extensions in Bangkok at a cost of Bt265.15 billion.
Chart Thai focuses on the welfare state. It will spend Bt20 billion to turn local medical centres into sub-district hospitals. It will extend social welfare to cover the elderly, disabled people and retired farmers. Each eligible person will receive Bt500 a month.
Irrigated land will rise to 60 million rai. It will pave 50,000 kilometres of rural roads within three years.
Urban mass-transit improvements have been pledged and Bt500,000 promised to each community to make "local" products. Farmers' debt will be suspended and Bt20 billion spent on its restructuring.
"Prachainomics" is in vogue. Prachai Leophairatana, the leader of Matchima Thipataya, will turn Thailand into a welfare state by combining populist policies with welfare.
The former boss of Thai Petrochemical Industry, now renamed IPRC, is contesting the polls with a 42-point manifesto, including universal free healthcare, education and food and books for children.
Prachai will separate state investment and fixed spending. "The problem is our current
fiscal budget of Bt1.66 trillion is mainly for fixed expenses, such as salaries which altogether amount to some Bt1.2 trillion, leaving only some Bt400 billion for public investment," he said.
"Such an amount is too small to drive economic growth so we have to come up with a separate investment budget financed by government bonds.
"Then, we'll drive economic growth by launching more infrastructure projects such as 10 mass transit lines in Bangkok and the suburbs, the Kra isthmus canal and double railway tracks nationwide.
"I believe the government needs to play a bigger role in economic development in a fashion similar to Singapore or Japan. All these big projects are necessary if we want to grow the economy and create more jobs."
Dr Pairoj Vongvipanond of Dhurakit Bundit University said a recent article likened Prachai's ideas to the Peronism of Argentina of the 1950s.
His poverty and corruption remedies are grossly oversimplified, Pairoj said.
Prachai said GDP and per-capita income could double in four years if the government spent heavily with money earned from bonds.
Ruam Jai Thai Chart Pattana promised it would spend big without damaging fiscal discipline.
It will increase revolving village funds to Bt200 billion from the Thaksin government's Bt75 billion. The fund was one of Thai Rak Thai's most popular initiatives.
It promised farmers more for rice, welfare for the elderly and children and a free laptop for very child. It promised to cut corporate income tax for small- and medium-sized enterprises, More tax breaks for the middle class have been pledged, too.
It will drive private investment growth by 10 per cent annually. To be prudent, the party will not allow public debt to exceed 40 per cent of GDP. Fiscal deficits will be kept to 2 per cent to 2.5 per cent and budgets will be balanced within three years.
It said its policies would boost economic growth by 5 per cent a year.
Uttama Savanayana, who played a key role in drafting the platform, said the policies were practical. Uttama is close to former finance minister Somkid Jatusripitak. Ruam Jai Thai's platform is similar to that of the Thai Rak Thai.
Suwit Khunkitti, leader of the Puea Pandin Party, broke away from the Thai Rak Thai. He lives in Khon Kaen and is gambling on winning farm votes.
He pledged village funds and irrigation. He promised "ethical awareness".
The latest Thailand Development Research Institute village fund and poverty study argues the fund hurts poor people. It suggests micro credit alone cannot help the poor.
Poverty is complicated and easy credit worsens debt of the poor, it said.