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Democrat's manifesto lacking


There are three routes to boost exports through the Democratic manifesto, the Chat Pattana cosmetic package and the New Aspiration's Lonely Export Summit. Thanong Khanthong explains.

After staying on the sidelines for the past six months, the Democrats yesterday made some raucous noises to prove they are still alive.

Their economic team, led by Supachai Panitchpakdi and Abhisit Vejjajiva, unveiled a three-page statement on how to tackle the economic woes. It was brief enough to become a Democrat manifesto.

The Democrat manifesto is a mixture of joy and disappointment. Joy because the Democrats have finally come out to prove their existence amid Thailand's growing economic trauma. Disappointment because it merely parrots the conservative approach adopted by the Finance Ministry and the Bank of Thailand in their awkward handling of fiscal policy, monetary policy, the financial institutions, the foreign exchange policy, exports and real estate.

Absent from the manifesto are any bold initiatives to tackle the financial sector crisis, which caused foreign speculators to attack the baht in the middle of last month. ''Using money from the Financial Institutions Development Fund to tackle the financial system crisis may be necessary but it should be based on the sound principle of guarding financial system stability and protecting the interests of the depositors rather than the shareholders or management. More importantly, the money must be used in a most limited scope," the Democrats said.

Perhaps the manifesto is a ploy to snub the New Aspiration Party and also the Chat Pattana Party. On Monday, Chatichai Choonhavan, the Chat Pattana leader, held a high-profile meeting with Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh at Ban Manangkhasila. Following this PR exercise in which Chavalit was held hostage, the Chat Pattana swiftly released its own face-saving package to boost exports.

The Chat Pattana became an object of self-pity after it was denied a grandiose opportunity to participate in the first-ever Export Summit in Pattaya. Its export stimulus package was drafted by Surakiart Sathirathai, a former finance minister and key adviser with an obsession for craftsmanship. The package helped the Chat Pattana gain some recognition and saved its day. Exports, which bring in Bt1.5 trillion in foreign exchange for the country, hold the key to Thailand's economic recovery. Any political party that lacks an export policy cannot claim to be a true party of modern Thailand. As expected, the Export Summit became a lonely summit. It was an encounter between the prime minister; Amnuay Viravan, the finance minister; and Commerce Minister Narongchai Akrasanee on one side, and more than 30 key exporters.

Hold tight to your seat. The Democrats are going to steal the finale by holding a major conference. At this conference, Supachai will unveil the most comprehensive and systematic study ever on Thai exports. This package is an extension of the Democrats' ''white book" on how to further develop the Thai economy, drafted while the Democrats were in power. The conference is co-sponsored by the Industrial Finance Corporation of Thailand and the Economic Research Centre of Chulalongkorn University. Now, let's bless the Thai exporters, who will be fanatically served by three export stimulus packages from three political parties New Aspiration, Chat Pattana and the Democrats. If they don't trust any of the political parties, they're better off hawking tofu.



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