More repressive populism

21 03 2016

The military dictatorship, reportedly keen to get more of the public to like it – the regime remains highly personalized – has embarked on another giveaway scheme.

On 25 December last year, the same self-proclaimed premier, General Prayuth Chan-ocha came up with a new giveaway: a 15,000 baht tax deduction for purchases which was estimated to cost the state 5 billion baht.

Less than three months later, he’s decided to give away another 5 billion baht of tax rebates to middle-class and wealthy consumers. As the Bangkok Post explains it, “[l]ike last December’s temporary shopping tax relief, to take advantage of the scheme, people have to dine at or otherwise shell out at, restaurants, hotels and travel-related companies which can issue tax invoices allowing them to deduct a certain amount from taxable income…”.

Not many farmers will benefit from this giveaway. Oddly, the report claims that “[t]he measures are aimed at the lower and middle classes…”. In addition, the companies that will benefit are happy: “Those in the private sector have also shown their support for the measure.”

The impact for the middle class and the rich is that the poor subsidize their holidays, eating and drinking.

We imagine that under newly proposed legislation to ban “populism” for political parties, such measures might well be ruled out as “dangerously populist.” Yet the military junta can do anything it wants. Our rough calculations are that, since December,  the  junta has made populist pledges amounting to 25-35 billion baht.



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