The election will be pivotal. Hopes are high that it may determine the next government amid little or no violence and thus resolve Thailand’s policy direction for the next several years.
It commonly said that the Pheu Thai Party, led in absentia by the exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, is ‘populist’ while the current government, led by Abhisit Vejjajiva of the Democrat Party, is more representative of the Thai establishment. It is also said that the competition between them has increasingly pushed the Democrats themselves towards more ‘populist’ policies.
But what is ‘populism’, and does it really describe Thaksin’s Pheu Thai Party? Popular definitions characterize it as an ideology of sociopolitical thought that emphasizes the difference between ‘the people’ and ‘the elite’, often to buttress an authoritarian regime. The Cambridge dictionary defines it in opposition to ‘statism’, which holds that a small group of professional politicians know better than the people and should therefore make decisions on their behalf. In their book Populism in Asia, Kosuke and Pongpaichit note that populist rhetoric is typically complemented by ‘anti-intellectualism, anti-elitism, and often anti-foreign sentiments’.
UCLA economist Sebastian Edwards (in his Left Behind: Latin America and the False Promise of Populism) describes economic populism as an emphasis on public expenditures that win political support through short-term redistributions towards targeted groups as opposed to public investments that raise long-term productivity.
Do these descriptions really apply to Pheu Thai and its leader Thaksin Shinawatra? Thaksin’s recent announcement of his party’s economic policies for the election indicate that they do. Speaking by video transmission to party members on 23 April, Thaksin outlined an admirably detailed set of economic initiatives, and some broader policy goals. There were two components: capital intensive mega-projects and redistributive initiatives designed to attract new sources of political support. The common thread across these announcements was a focus on policies that involve highly visible capital injections or heavy handed rhetorical approaches to problems.
The important point is what the policy does not contain: anything about reforming Thailand’s antiquated systems of primary and secondary education, the single greatest impediment to long-term economic progress in the country; anything about reforming the country’s regressive tax system that favours the rich over the poor; or anything about raising the productivity of Thailand’s masses of unskilled and semi-skilled workers.
How China is using tourists to realise its geopolitical goals
Over the last two decades, the number of Chinese overseas travellers rose by over 25 times from 5.3 million in 1997 to 130 million in 2017, contributing an estimated US$250 billion to overseas economies
Social Development and Human Security Ministry organizes ASEAN People’s Forum
Key topics of the forum include the ASEAN Chairmanship, the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan 2025, which focuses on mainstreaming the rights of persons with disabilities and social welfare
Thailand pledges to support Indo-Pacific regional security enhancement
Thailand is strategically located in the Indo-Pacific region, and the army is ready to tackle newer security threats, particularly cybersecurity threats, which requires the cooperation of other partner countries.
BANGKOK, 11 September 2019(NNT) – The Thai government has pledged its support for regional cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, with external parties working to solve conflicts and preparing to handle security threats, particularly cybersecurity threats.(more…)
Thailand among top five countries for salary hikes
Thailand is among the top five economies in the world to see real salary increases and is likely to see...
Thailand Ecommerce Market: Shooting For Success
At present, the Thai ecommerce market is valued at USD 3.5 billion. According to a Google Temasek study, Thailand’s e-commerce...
Aspire Set to Become First SME Neobank in Southeast Asia with US$32.5 Million Raise
The recent financing has been led by Mass-Mutual Ventures Southeast Asia with participation from Silicon Valley’s Arc Labs and existing...