Thursday, March 7, 2013

Thailand's "Thaksinomics" Populism Failing Spectacularly

March 7, 2013 (AltThaiNews) - Astounding condemnations by the West have been directed at Venezuela's late president, Hugo Chavez. Amongst the list of woes the Western media seems to have had with Chavez was how he used populist policies to build a support base. Strangely enough, the West is quite fond of another political leader that has done likewise, a politician every bit as bad in reality, as Chavez has been made out to be in fiction.

A particularly preposterous op-ed from the Western media was found in the Australian. Titled, "Death of a ruthless autocrat," the Australian's editorial board actually says:
HE [Hugo Chavez] was lionised as a hero by the Western Left, of course, but it would be hard to find a leader in recent history who more comprehensively betrayed the wellbeing of his country than Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.
Ironically, not long after this went to print, Thailand's Thaksin Shinwatra and his Peua Thai political party, who likewise has built its support base using populist handouts, reported a catastrophic loss from one of its many populist schemes. The government had pledged to buy rice from farmers regardless of price or demand at a fixed rate. Warehouses began filling with rice priced far above market value, with massive amounts of corruption, including rice being smuggled in from other countries and sold to the witless government for exorbitant prices. 

The Bangkok Post reported that the losses for the 2011/2012 season were estimated at around 140 billion baht and a staggering 210 billion baht for the 2012/2013 season.

One could imagine a myriad of real, pragmatic programs that could have been funded with that money - programs that could have lent Thailand's rural poor with the education and skills necessary to diversify their economic activities beyond merely growing rice, and empower themselves through sustainable entrepreneurship. These programs would have taken time, results would have been slow, and for Peua Thai's target demographics, it is unlikely such sustainable, effective policies would have garnered them the quick, easy, and cheap support they were looking for during 2011's general elections.

And because of this reckless vote-buying, Thailand is left with massive losses, a destabilized, artificially skewed rice market, and an increasingly dependent segment of its population relying on a populist scheme that is already falling apart.

Surely this qualifies as "betraying the wellbeing" of Thaksin Shinawatra's supporters and Thailand as a whole. The unraveling rice scheme is only one of a number of failed populist policies used to buy-off voters in 2011. Another was a "first car loan" scheme that has saw a staggering number of cars take to already chronically jammed roads along with a staggering amount of debt accumulated amongst people who could neither afford a car, nor a loan for one. Thaksin's proxy government also handed out "tablet PC's" to first graders, an idea that at face value is an absurd waste.

The crass, elementary "computers, cars, and money" for votes strategy employed by Thaksin Shinawatra and his Peua Thai Party should incur at least as much criticism and condemnation from the West as Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. Instead, think-tanks representing the very corporate-financier interests who long sought to pillage Venezuela but were exiled by Chavez, can be found praising Thaksin Shinawatra and his "brilliant" "Thaksinomics."

Obviously the difference between Thaksin and Chavez is not a matter of socioeconomic policy, but for whom such policies are employed. Thaksin has been a long-time servant of and collaborator with Western ambitions, Hugo Chavez was an obstruction.

The Bangkok Post's article, "Govt accepts it will lose on rice" quoted Jac Luyendijk, CEO at Swiss Agri Trading SA, who stated:
We have to keep in mind that with these increasing rice stocks in Thailand, the problem will become bigger and bigger. Once Thailand unloads its stockpile we will look to very depressed rice prices for years to come.
Indeed, Thaksin Shinwatra's populist gimmicks for quick support at the polls will cost Thailand for many years to come, especially the very people they allegedly were designed to help - the rural poor. And his government is just getting started. The hole they plan to dig for Thailand is for all intents and purposes bottomless. As long as they can keep their support base in the dark regarding economics and the long-term damage they are doing to Thailand, they can maintain, even expand their political foothold. 

Thaksin and his Wall Street-backers hope by the time Peua Thai's supporters realize what has happened it will be too late. They hope, and are actively attempting to sweep away any form of coherent opposition to their political machine, much as has been done in neighboring Cambodia. This will leave Thais at the mercy of a Hun Sen-style dictatorship no matter how woefully corrupt, incompetent, or brutally autocratic it may be, and Thailand, like Cambodia is now, a backwards, foreign-owned and pillaged fiefdom.