Rubbery figures

6 01 2020

Convicted heroin smuggler and teflon-coated deputy minister for Agriculture and Cooperatives Thammanat Prompow says he will press ahead with his “plan”  to “give away 30 million latex pillows to support rubber farmers hit by low prices.”

Clipped from Khaosod

Thammanat is asking cabinet to approve “an initial allocation of 4 billion baht from a central budget to procure the first batch of 3 million pillows to be distributed to the public and 433,702 pillows to state agencies … from Feb 1 to Nov 3.” By our calculations, that’s about 1,165 baht (about $39) for each pillow.

Expensive? Bangkok Latex retails high-end latex pillows for about 1000 baht or about $30. Alibaba advertises them for around $4-$10 or 120-300 baht. So we guess that someone or a gang high up in the hierarchy and/or government could be raking in $20 or so on each pillow or more than $68 million.

But that calculation assumes the figures in the story are correct and that PPT’s poor math skills are up to the task. A later line in the story is that Thammanat wants the scheme to run until 2023 at a cost of 18 billion baht for 30 million pillows, suggesting a cost of just 600 baht per pillow. Even that lower figure would suggest “commissions” and “takes” of about 50% or 9 billion baht or $300 million.

This idea is advertised as being about raising the latex price for farmers, so perhaps not all the loot is being pocketed by the big boys. But, here, the data provided suggests that farmers will be getting an extra 20 baht on top of the current market price of around 40-45 baht per kilogram.  That still leaves plenty of loose change for the already powerful and wealthy.

In addition, other state funds will go to shoring up the Marketing Organization for Farmers, providing additional skimming opportunities.

Having a convicted crook running a ministry where taxpayer funds can be easily diverted to private pockets is not a new scam, but Thammanat seems to be able to get away with murder.

Wasn’t the Yingluck government the subject of criticism, demonstrations, violence and a military coup for shoring up rice prices as around the same rate?



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