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Rice Distribution To Be Axed


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Rice distribution to be axed

Lowering of Social Security contributions to proceed

BANGKOK: -- Facing criticism from many sides, Labour Minister Phaithoon Kaeothong yesterday said he might cancel a Bt1billion Social Security Office (SSO) project to distribute 5 kilograms of rice per worker.

Since the government will already assist those earning less than Bt15,000 a month with a onetime allowance of Bt2,000, there was little need to hand out 5 kilograms of rice to them, he said. The project could turn into a channel for corruption, as well as for dumping lowquality rice, similar to the notorious cannedfish case.

To prevent future misunderstandings about how SSO money was being used to assist workers, the minister said he had assigned permanent secretary Somchai Chumrat to submit a report to the Council of State clarifying legal matters regarding spending.

But another project to cut contributions by workers and employers to the SSO Fund from 5 per cent to 2.5 per cent would proceed, he said. That project could help mitigate the impact on the SSO Fund if the number of unemployed does reach 1 million as in some projections. If that happens, the fund may have to pay out Bt40 billion.

He said the reduction in contributions would not affect the fund in the future, because it would be implemented for only a short period, in order to assist business operators and employers this year.

Prakai Wisetwisai from the Confederation of Thai Labour and who is on the SSO board as an employee representative, said that during a board meeting on Tuesday, he raised objections to spending Bt1 billion to give 5 kilograms of rice to each of 9.3 million workers. He believes the procurement and distribution systems would be a waste of money and that if it must be done, the rice should be handed out to those facing layoffs.

As for reductions in contributions to the SSO Fund, he said that should not be allowed for employers whose business was still good.

Prakai said the reductions should not be applied to the Retirement Fund, because that would affect the SSO Fund in the future.

On Monday, labour organisations will ask Phaithoon to consider cancelling both projects, he added.

A source pointed out that cutting SSO Fund contributions in half as proposed would boost employees' takehome pay.

-- The Nation 2009-01-23

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I feel there is other reasoning behind this , Thai rice exports were increased due to consumer demand being lowered , rice farmer production had not increased from the previous year , the government requires more rice for export , take away with the left hand what you are giving with the right .

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