Labour groups yesterday demanded an across-the-board hike of 5 per cent in the daily minimum wage next January.
Hike of daily minimum wage demanded
Thailand is among the region’s more open economies, with exports accounting for around 65% of gross domestic product (GDP)
The Government adopted expansionary fscal and monetary policies to temper the contraction. Private consumption fell by 2.4% year on year in the frst half of 2009, the result of a weakening labor market, a fall in export prices of agricultural commodities that hurt rural incomes, and feeble consumer confdence, particularly during times of political turmoil. Antigovernment street protests in April, which followed an extended period of rising political tensions, led to a temporary state of emergency in the capital, Bangkok. In contrast to the fall in private consumption, government consumption rose by 4.8% in the frst half of 2009 as the Government quickened the pace of its budget disbursement and raised wages for its employees, and rolled out its first fiscal stimulus package from March.
Thailand’s banks and finance companies were at the heart of the country’s 1997 collapse
The urban growth in Thailand reached its zenith in the spectacular decade-long boom from the mid-80s to the mid-90s. In the first half of the decade, the economy grew at dizzying double-digit rates, and by the end of the boom it had multiplied in size two-and-a-half times, with the urban middle class more than tripling in number; business employees came to outnumber government officials in its ranks. With the yen strengthening in the wake of the 1985 Plaza Accord, Japan became the biggest source of fdi; manufacturing, real estate, trade and services were the principal recipients. By the end of the century the population had reached 61 million and, with intensive urbanization, that of Greater Bangkok had quadrupled. But class and regional disparities had sharply intensified. By 1996, on the eve of the crash, the top quintile had increased its share of the national income to 57 per cent, from 49 per cent in 1976; the lowest quintile saw its share diminish from 6 per cent to 4 per cent in the same period. After four decades of high-speed capitalist development Thailand had achieved one of the most unequal income distributions in the world, worse than those of its East and Southeast Asian neighbours, and comparable to the worst cases in Latin America.
Direct cash was pumped into the grass roots economy, including cash 2,000 baht handouts to nine million civil servants and workers nationwide
The vast bulk of foreign investment had gone to Bangkok and its surrounding region, the central plain of the Chao Phraya River delta, starving the tropical forests of the mountainous North, the rolling savannah of the Northeast and the densely forested Malay peninsula. While land ownership has been concentrated in the hands of the upper and middle classes, this has not been in traditional forms of landlordism. Historically, most Thai peasants were independent smallholders until the 1960s. The onset of state-promoted capitalist development led to the large-scale commodification of rural land, which ceased to be a cheap and plentiful source of production in the traditional peasant economy and turned into an increasingly expensive object of speculation in the market economy.
Indeed grass roots competition for government resources is intensifying. For instance the Farmers Rehabilitation and Development Fund is seeking 17.2 billion baht from the cabinet to buy back debts owned by over 62,000 farmers and rehabilitation and occupational training programs. During the 1997-98 financial crisis, a large number of unemployed factory and service sector workers returned to the rural countryside to eke out a subsistence living working in their relations’ fields. Agriculture currently accounts for 11% of GDP. Higher agricultural prices drove up farm incomes during the first half of 2008, but fell sharply in the second half in line with declining global commodity prices. As the local economy slows and unemployment rates rise, it’s not clear that the rural sector will with falling food prices have the same absorptive capacity it did in the wake of the Asian financial crisis.