Friday, July 19, 2024
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Too early for plaudits

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin recently addressed the nation, highlighting the government's achievements in its first 60 days in office.

Among its “achievements” are a debt moratorium for farmers, benefiting over 2.7 million people, lowering electricity bills and oil prices, according to the PM.

It is unclear why the government was in such a rush to extol its own performance. Usually, a new administration gives such assessments at the six month mark.

Needless to say, two months is too early for any fair assessment and the only valid explanation is the government is trying to deal with high expectations from voters and society.

The Pheu Thai Party was the lucky second-place getter that took office after the election winner, the Move Forward Party, failed to garner enough seats in the bicameral parliament to form a coalition.

The MFP has now joined the Democrat Party and others in opposition to the government and they are particularly vocal about the 10,000 baht digital cash handout and other dole-outs.

Even as the government hits back at critics, it seems the financial dole-outs being given to people will not be enough to meet the public’s expectations of improved living standards and reduced household burdens.

Citizens seek a government that can sustain their well-being, promote equal opportunities, eradicate corruption, and enhance overall life prosperity. Unfortunately, there are no apparent achievements in these critical areas after two months in office.

One flagship policy facing considerable challenges is the 10,000-baht handout through a digital wallet. Despite the heavy criticism, the government is pushing forward, with tweaks narrowing eligibility criteria based on income and bank deposits.

Originally, the government planned to allocate the money to about 55 million people aged over 16. However, after critics demanded that the wealthy be ruled out, the prime minister decided the handout should cover people who are over 16 years of age with no more than 70,000 baht of income a month and with less than 500,000 baht in deposits in their bank accounts. This reduces number of those eligible to 50 million.

While the government appears responsive to criticism, several issues surrounding the handout scheme remain controversial. It is too early to determine the policy’s success, as a special law will be needed to secure a 500 billion baht loan for financing, with potential legal challenges anticipated.

It is expected some opponents will file a petition to the Constitutional Court, arguing the country is not in an urgent situation which would allow the government to borrow such a huge amount of capital.

Even if the government implements the scheme successfully, it falls short of meeting expectations for structural change that would ensure sustainable well-being and equality in society.

On the question of its performance, the government passes on its willingness to show it is upholding its promises.

However, it is premature to conclude whether it will achieve what the public truly expects by making structural changes for the better in the long run.

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