The priority, they believe, is to expedite spending of money already approved in the central budget to help the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) pay for pledged crops.
This approach would be better than issuing bonds, which might face legal complications, scholars taking part in a forum at
Caretaker Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong on Friday floated the idea of selling bonds to the general public at attractive interest rates to fund the rice payments, which are about
He said the bonds would not be offered to big institutions or banks, which in any case are not interested in lending to the government because of the high political risk at present.
Ennoo Suesuwan, a former acting managing director of the BACC, said that issuing bonds could expose BACC executives to lawsuits if the legal authority of a caretaker administration to do so were challenged, which it almost certainly would be.
The caretaker government has also proposed that the state-run BACC issue
But the more direct and viable option would to expedite the central budget approved long before the dissolution of the House, said Mr Ennoo, currently the president of the
"Secondly, the caretaker government actually could shift related budgets away from various ministries to urgently help make the delayed payments," he said at a forum organised by the Reforms Now Network and the
The retired banker said this practice was common among all governments in the weeks before the end of the fiscal year in order to use up remaining funds.
Lastly, he said, the government needed to quickly sell the rice from its stockpiles to get money to pay up farmers.
"These are the three main possible and legally viable options the Yingluck caretaker cabinet should take," he said.
Rice sales, however, are proving increasingly difficult as supplies pile up worldwide and prices are falling. As well, some countries are starting to question the quality of Thai rice because so many million tonnes have been stockpiled for so long and not all of the grain has been properly maintained.
It has been estimated that about 800,000 farmers are owed
To date, only
He said BAAC executives and staff needed to go out to meet farmers and talk with them, explaining the reasons for the delay and offering other options to help them, such as postponing debt repayments.
"February-March is usually the time for the regular BACC visit to farms but this time other agencies, including education and health authorities, should go into the field to help relieve farmers' anxieties, help their children and address mental health issues too," he said.
He believes the BACC could allow debt payment delays for up to six months to help farmers until the next government is formed. "Or even if a government cannot yet be formed, the BACC could still extend the payment postponement for another six months."
Thawatchai Yongkittikul, secretary-general of the
Panelists discuss ways to solve problems in the rice industry at a forum at
"The solutions require a quick decision and earnest responsibility by the politicians," said Mr Thawatchai, also an executive of the
"Releasing rice stocks should be done gradually. Of course, there might be some losses as we've stockpiled a lot of rice, but it remains understandable as long as we ensure there is no corruption."
Praphat Panyachatrak, the NFC chairman, contended that the non-payment problem stemmed from cowardice and/or ignorance by the caretaker government because it failed to approve an increase in the ceiling of rice loans at
"The current scheme has only created a monopoly on the rice trade and goes against the market mechanism," he said. "Officials could not act as shrewd exporters but have to stockpile the rice for at least three to four years before being able to sell it. That requires a huge budget."
Thai rice stocks now total 17 million to 18 million tonnes or around 17% of global stocks following
"We will also face the problems of price cutting as we have old rice and also quality problems," said the economist, adding that it should be a wake-up call for
The cost in
Mr Somporn said the government also needed to develop the struggling
Sirilaksana Khoman, a former Thammasat University dean of economics, agreed that some costly lessons had been learned.
"It has proved that apart from distorting the market mechanism, there has been collusion involving many parties from farmers to rice millers and surveyors," said Ms Sirilaksana, a member of a
As for the opinions of farmers themselves, tempers at the forum ran high in an exchange between Prasit Boonchuey, the president of the
Some provincial NFC chairmen say
Charin Sindee of
"We are the real farmers' representative from each province and we've not siding with either the protesters or the government," said
"We've only agreed to allow a week for the authorities to pay up and if they won't, we will come back to
Songphol Poonsawat, the NFC's Angthong chair, said his province had 2,500 farmers who were owed
"We are looking forward to quick response by the BAAC. Currently, over a hundred have sought legal advice on lawsuits against the BAAC," he said.
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