Dhanin Chearavanont, chairman of Charoen Pokphand Group, called for a cautious government approach towards populism, to avoid a Greece-like crisis.
He said the government should focus more on creating opportunities, including a Bt2-trillion investment in irrigation, support for rubber and fuel-crop plantation, and the opening of a casino to promote tourism.
"Thailand is in the infant stage in terms of populism. We've just begun to show sympathy for the poor. Still, we should avoid becoming a welfare state like Greece, as that does not encourage people to work. When the government's finances are poor, welfare should be adjusted to reflect that," he said at the Securities and Exchange Commission's 20th Anniversary Symposium.
He supported the government's rice-pledging scheme to guarantee farmers' income, but said the process should be amended. All farmers should be able to sell rice at the price to any millers. The government should start releasing the stockpile only when it can fetch a high price, or when the rice can be processed for higher-value products.
Dhanin told the audience that Thailand had enormous potential for more farming and more investment in the 24 million rai of irrigated areas to increase yield and farmers' incomes.
To boost the tourism industry, he supported the opening of casinos, encouraged by the fact that gaming revenue in Singapore is now the world's third-highest, after Macau and Las Vegas. He said opponents of the idea were hypocrites who were not willing to accept that many Thais are now involved in gambling. He also suggested the abolition of value-added tax and import tariffs on luxury goods. With a greater number of tourists, this would benefit the entire nation, he said.
The Nation July 28, 2012