Interestingly, The Nation has a brief report on a TDRI researcher commenting on inequality. In the report are some of the reasons why inequality remains stubbornly high in Thailand over the past several decades.
The TDRI study appears to have mainly been about savings:
Among five groups in 2009, the richest reported savings of Bt6,300 per person per month, while the poorest had no savings, reflecting inequality in education…. In 2009, 94 per cent of the poorest households held financial assets of no more than Bt50,000, while 30 per cent of the richest held financial assets of more than Bt100,000.
These figures sound remarkably low for the wealthy, but then the really, really rich seldom take part in such surveys or report their wealth to anyone. That the poor are broke will surprise no-one. Yet the point remains that the rich are doing pretty darn well, still.
The report states:
… the government should attempt to add to the tax rolls high-income earners who have not paid taxes yet or have not paid according to their ability to pay….
That could boost the government’s revenue for use to improve welfare for the poor and the economically and socially disadvantaged…
While pro-Thaksin Shinawatra governments since 2000 have introduced many policies that aim to boost the income of the poor – we expect that the 300 baht a day wage will impact inequality a bit – and have added several important elements of a social welfare program, they have not tackled tax reform in any serious way.
A government of the people, owing its election to the votes it gets mainly from the less well-off, needs to have the policy guts to take on real reform, introduce progressive taxes and tax the still untaxable at the top of the wealth structure. That way it can both pay for social welfare and redistribute income.
After all, the rich in Thailand have had it easy for a very long time and have become fabulously wealthy. That’s why they oppose elected governments. They want it all – wealth and political power – and they protect their assets with violent force.