Help from faulty government to grassroots

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The cabinet decided to implement 10 measures to ease the burden on households and micro-business owners following a spike in the cost of living caused by rising fuel prices.

While the government’s response has been welcomed and is seen as necessary to ease the hardship, many say the measures, which will not come into force until next month and only last until the end of July, are not sufficient to help them keep pace with the run-up in prices. .

A number of consumer groups and retailers are urging the government to put money in their pockets now by rolling out a fifth phase of Khon La Khrueng, the state-sponsored co-pay subsidy scheme, and to fix the prices of essential goods and services to protect low-income people from financial hardship.

Wheel greasing

Thaniwan Kulmongkol, president of the Thai Restaurant Association, said people are facing a revenue freeze during this difficult time but will still have to bear the added costs of disease control measures such as face masks, sanitizer for hands and antigen test kits.

Ms Thaniwan said small street food vendors, estimated to number around 90,000, are part of the basic economy and the government must do everything in its power to help them survive. .

Prices of consumer goods rise as energy prices rise – fuel, cooking gas and electricity bills – and the 10 measures will help to some extent, she said.

However, launching an additional fifth phase of the Khon La Khrueng co-pay scheme is what the government should focus on in addition to relief measures, Ms Thaniwan said.

The scheme, which sees the government subsidizing 50% of food, drink and general goods purchases for participants, with a total subsidy capped at 150 baht per person per day, will help both vendors and the general public.

Micro-business owners reported low sales after each phase of the program ended, she said.

Ms Thaniwan said she expected more fuel or electricity subsidies from the government and wondered if energy companies such as PTT Plc could be persuaded to cut profit margins for some time. time to help households get their energy bills under control.

“People are caught between a rock and a hard place. Costs have increased, so sellers have to raise prices, which turns customers away. Wages, meanwhile, remain the same, as does purchasing power.

“How can we survive this? Another phase of Khon La Khrueng can help a lot, especially small retailers and food vendors,” she said.

Yada Pornphetrampa, who represents hawkers and street food vendors, said many are unimpressed with the government’s response as they struggle with the cost of living, but the 10 measures will not start until next month .

Some people also think the package is for car and motorcycle taxis, she said, referring to a price guarantee of 13.62 baht per kilogram of natural gas for taxi drivers under the Lom project. Hai Jai Diow Gun (Breathe Together) and a relief payment for gasoline. 250 baht per month for 157,000 active motorcycle riders registered with the Department of Land Transport.

According to Ms Yada, direct cash distributions are what the public badly needs in times of financial hardship, and programs like Khon La Khrueng increase purchasing power and “grease the wheels” of the economy.

The government will need to regulate the price of needed goods and genuinely enable low-income people to access loans, she said.

She added that despite soft loan plans from public banks, there are conditions that prevent many households from accessing financial assistance.

“Little people don’t have a lot of opportunities to earn a living. They don’t have the capital. Their savings were depleted during Covid-19,” she said.

With Covid-19 to be classified as an endemic disease, the government should also consider allowing nighttime entertainment venues to reopen, Ms Yada said.

Commodity price control

Rewat Chobtham, from the Thai Street Vendors Network for Sustainable Development, said that although the new measures are better than nothing, many street vendors are still being left out as only 10% hold welfare cards from the state.

The government should arrange cheaper fuel, especially cooking gas, which is a necessity for every household. As for the rebate on electricity bills, he said the relief measure is aimed at households that do not use air conditioners.

“The measures benefit limited groups of people while most people who are also struggling are left out,” he said.

He said maintaining the price of essential goods and creating marketplaces for sellers will help them stand on their feet and reduce the financial burden on the government.

Chalerm Changthongmadan, president of the Motorcycle Taxi Association, said the measures are not sustainable and the government must do more to control the prices of essential goods.

“An emergency gasoline payment of 250 baht per month is around 8-9 baht per day while our food expenses are around 180 baht, which does not include 120 baht to fill the tanks. hardly helps,” he said.

Mr Chalerm suggested fuel cards worth 5,000 baht for three months would help cash-strapped taxi riders.

The government could also promote the use of electric motorcycles by lowering prices that are twice as high as regular fossil-fuel vehicles, he said.

“I would also recommend no down payment. Electric vehicles will reduce costs and they are good for the environment,” he said.

Sadit Jaithiang, president of the Thailand Association of Public Taxis, said allowing taxis to raise fares would help his group more effectively. The last time the tariff was increased was in 1992.

The taxi fare for the first 10 kilometers should be increased to 7 baht per km from 5.50 baht now, as well as the starting fare of 35 baht, he said, adding that taxi drivers needed more than temporary relief measures.

“The government is concerned about people’s cost of living. What about taxi drivers and their families? he said.

Udom Homsap, a 60-year-old taxi rider, said fuel costs had doubled and he now had to pay around 120 baht to refuel. The monthly subsidy of a relief payment of 250 gasohol baht will help ease the load.

Opas Khlai-udom, 56, a tuk-tuk driver, said his daily income had dropped from 800-1,000 baht to around 200 baht and he felt lucky if he earned 300 baht these days. In fact, some of his colleagues are working two or three jobs to make ends meet while many have returned to their home provinces, he said.

“What I want to ask is ‘please don’t raise the price of the goods’. We are barely surviving,” he said.

Supaporn Prasomsamai, 42, a food vendor, said her income had dropped by more than 80% and there was no way the 100 baht monthly relief allowance for vendors and peddlers would go far enough to help.

“I’m not asking for any help, but the government better get out of this situation. It’s our children who have to pay the loans he got and these loans don’t make any difference to vendors like us,” he said. -she adds. noted.

Nipawan Sriprayoon, 53, another saleswoman, said all costs were rising – especially cooking gas and fuel for her motorbike – but she could not afford to raise prices as her customers also had financial difficulties.

She said the cooking gas allowance for vendors should be around 200-250 baht, noting that she sees many people with gold-bearing state welfare cards and that many participants in Khon La Khrueng were state officials.

“Small vendors are out in the cold,” she said.


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