BANGKOK, Aug 16 (Reuters) - Thailand’s new government will focus on increasing people’s income and holding down the cost of living rather than simply aiming for higher economic growth, a senior minister said on Tuesday ahead of a cabinet meeting to discuss priorities.
The government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra took office last week and will present its policies to parliament next week, around Aug. 24.
Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Kittirat Na Ranong told reporters that among the priorities were a minimum wage of 300 baht ($10) a day, a starting salary for university graduates of 15,000 baht a month, a cut in company taxes, a reduction in fuel prices and a campaign against drug use.
“Other governments would have insisted on economic growth, which is understandable. But what we care about most is not just growth, but increases in people’s income, and how to distribute this higher income to everybody fairly,” Kittirat said.
The government seems determined to push ahead with the populist programme that won it a landslide election victory on July 3, although some economists warn this could set off a wage-price spiral.
The proposed nationwide minimum wage, for example, would mean an increase of 90 percent in some provinces, which is bound to hurt small businesses. These firms say they would not be helped much by an offsetting cut in corporate tax to 23 percent from 30 percent.
The government also promised to double the farmgate price for rice to 15,000 baht per tonne, which exporters say will make Thai rice uncompetitive and could cause it to lose its position as top exporter to Vietnam.
Kittirat, who has direct responsibility for rice as commerce minister, made no reference to that as he went into the cabinet meeting.
He said ministers would study the outgoing government’s policies before deciding which to continue.
“I didn’t say we would immediately cancel all of their policies. We’ll look at those policies thoroughly before making any decision,” he said. (Reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak; Writing by Apornrath Phoonphongphiphat; Editing by Alan Raybould)