Updated: Cashing in on the virus

26 08 2021

With massive unemployment, masked by the fact that migrants have left and many Thais have gone back to the family farm, there are a few who have profited very nicely.

A recent report in the Bangkok Post states that for all of the talk of the virus-induced downturn, on top of the sluggish growth under the junta-cum-military-backed regime, has still seen “listed companies reported a 114% surge in net profits for the first half of the year…”. As the report notes, this partly reflects the “low base in 2020 when the economy was hit by the first lockdown.” Even so, “[c]ore profits also rose 118.6% to 804.95 billion baht while net profits increased 144.2% to 528.34 billion baht, compared to last year’s 216.33 billion baht.”

The report doesn’t explain it, but increased unemployment and increased profits fit together. Companies preserve and increase profits by getting rid of variable costs – labor.

Equally, revealing, a recent Reuters report is of a flood of taxpayer funds for the monarchy. In the current budget bill, the “allocation of 8.76 billion baht ($262 million) for the monarchy in the next fiscal year survived unprecedented calls for cuts by opposition lawmakers during parliamentary proceedings that concluded on Sunday.”

While “government lawmakers in parliament did not comment on opposition lawmakers calls for royal budget cuts,” the “budget for royal agencies for the next fiscal year is for a 2.4% cut compared to the previous year.”

Move Forward Party MPs complained that “the allocated budget lacks clear details and should therefore be subject to cuts ranging from 15% to 40% based on the budgeting of these agencies prior to the merger and because funds maybe needed elsewhere due to the COVID-19 crisis.” Becha Saengchantra, a lawmaker from Move Forward, opined that “royal agencies did not send a representative to explain the budget … there is only a seven-page document that did not explain much…”.

One explanation for the huge allocation to the royals was from the Budget Bureau, which “had earlier explained to parliament’s budget committee that 92% of the allocated budget for the ‘royal agencies’ is for the payroll of its 14,275 staff.”

Who knew that the palace had such a bloated staff!

Opposition MPs also “raised concerns over other funds related to the monarchy that were included in planned expenditure in other ministries.”

That sent PPT back to previous reports for context. We earlier posted that in 2021, the Royal Offices alone got more than 8.98 billion baht, up almost 17% over 2020.  So, next year is a slight reduction, but overall, since 2017, the royal budget has increased substantially.

We at PPT continue to wonder if the figures supplied by Reuters are complete. Does it include the budget for the hugely expensive royal projects? Our feeling is that the monarchy gorges on more than we are seeing here.

Update: Recall that Ruangkrai Leekitwattana has complained to the Election Commission about the Move Forward Party’s questions over the royal truckloads of taxpayer loot. He wants the party dissolved by the Constitutional Court. There’s a fuller story on this corrupt buffalo’s posterior at Prachatai.


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