14 10 2017

As long-time readers will know, PPT sometimes struggles with figures; none of us are mathematicians. That this post is about statistics may mean that we infringe on the data here and there, but we thought a recent story at the Bangkok Post carried a broader lesson.

The Office of Agricultural Economics is reported to have crunched some numbers and come up with a forecast that the junta’s “welfare cards for the poor scheme will generate more than 100 billion baht in value to the country’s economy.”

That the state’s dumping of a pot of money to the “poorest,”who tend to spend it, produces a boost to consumption and boosts the economy is well known to economists, and is sometimes called Keynesianism.

Thaksin Shinawatra’s government used the same kind of economic logic, so we might assume that the junta’s idea has something to do with Somkid Jatusripitak, who has worked for both Thaksin and junta.

The cost to the state is estimated to be 46 billion baht for the 2018 fiscal year. The aforementioned Office of Agricultural Economics reckons that this “return” is about “2.5 times higher than the government’s investment cost…”.

That is a useful calculation, not least for the military junta as it campaigns for its (now “promised”) “election.”

The report states that the Ministry of Finance calculates that “11.43 million people have registered as having income of less than 30,000 baht per year…”.

The surprising figure, however, is this: of this more than 11 million, “3.32 million are from the farming sector and 8.11 million from the non-farming sector.” This means that “13.37 billion baht is for the poor from the farming sector, while 32.63 billion baht goes to the poor from the non-farming sector.”

This is odd. Almost all the major agencies identify rural dwellers as the majority living below the poverty line.

For example, the World Bank states:

As of 2014, over 80% of the country’s 7.1 million poor live in rural areas. Moreover, an additional 6.7 million were living within 20% above the national poverty line and remained vulnerable to falling back into poverty.

The figures – 7.1 million vs. 11.5 million – are worth noting. The official poverty line was, in 2015, 2,644 baht per month, above the junta’s figure of 2,500 baht per month.

But even so, the junta’s registration for the poor appears to have only come up 3.3 million in the “farming sector,” when the data suggest this should be at least double that figure.

Academic Kampanat Pensupar, from Kasetsart University, notices this too, and is reported as saying that the small number of farmers “means the poor in rural areas might not be able to gain access to the scheme, or the poor in farming sectors have moved into the non-farming sector.” The latter seems unlikely, if the huge variation in the numbers are considered.

Our conclusion is that the junta is engaged in political campaigning. It is seeking to use the funds in areas where it will likely produce an “electoral” dividend.

Our second thought was about the difference between this program and the rice pledging project that resulted in a five year jail sentence for Yingluck Shinawatra.

On the one hand, the rice program was blunt in targeting, but did seek to have funds flow to farmers – recognized as those most likely to be relatively poor. The junta’s poverty program is not doing that.

On the other hand, we wonder if the Office of Agricultural Economics is crunched the numbers on the rice pledging project in the same way it has for the junta’s program? We can’t help thinking that the same multipliers would have applied to a program that better targeted the poor in rural areas.



2 responses

19 10 2017
Campaigning among the poor | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] reports that “the Finance Ministry said it might increase their shopping credit [on poverty cards] to 800 […]

19 10 2017
Campaigning among the poor | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] reports that “the Finance Ministry said it might increase their shopping credit [on poverty cards] to 800 […]