RISING FOOD PRICES A POLITICAL PRESSURE POINT

Soaring food prices are taking a bigger bite of people’s income and are believed to be intensifying political pressure and shaking the stability of the government, which has a little over one year left in office.

As the price hikes look set to add to the public’s financial burden and no one knows how long the situation will last, economic experts, coalition and opposition politicians, businessmen and representatives of the public are reported by the Bangkok Post to be talking about what the government should and could do to address this pressing concern of the Thai people.

Somjai Phagaphasvivat, an independent political and economic analyst, said the price increases are a short-term problem that can be addressed by proper planning.

The key factors that contribute to soaring prices are a suspected swine disease outbreak, the need to continue exports to revive the economy, and Covid-related production limitations. Increases in production costs such as fuel or fertilisers have also had an impact on transport and animal feed.

Nonarit Bisonyabut, a senior research fellow at the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), said “The economy isn’t recovering from the pandemic and it is being pressured by the swine disease outbreak, which has raised the prices of several goods. It’s the government’s responsibility to help [people] survive.”

Mr Nonarit said there should be more research and development to help small and medium-sized pig farmers improve farm efficiency and contain animal diseases. When an animal disease outbreak erupts, these businesses are the most affected, he said.

Mr Nonarit said the next election would not bode well for the government if it fails to address people’s economic hardship.

Sutin Klungsang, Maha Sarakham MP for the Pheu Thai Party and opposition chief whip, said the price hikes will erode public confidence even though the government can scrape through and complete its term.

“Public confidence is dropping due to the higher cost of living. People may not endure and the government may leave before completing its term. Coalition partners may pressure each other, disrupting the work of parliament and creating disunity,” he said.

Government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said the prime minister has instructed the Commerce Ministry to deal with rising living costs while Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanavisit has ordered related organisations to find ways to keep consumer product prices down as much as possible.

Gen Prayut and his cabinet maintain they are ready to explain the facts about all matters associated with the rising prices of consumer products, he said when responding to a threat by the opposition to grill the government in parliament over the prices hikes.

Prayong Doklamyai, an adviser to P-Move, said the government should apologise to the public and admit it made a mistake.  “At least it should apologise for mismanaging the issue. The government has the tools at its disposal to solve the problem, but it must deal with it effectively without benefiting any specific group,” he said.