Poll: Rice scheme derailed by graft

Corruption is the biggest failing of the government’s rice-pledging scheme, according to more than half of economists surveyed, Bangkok Poll said on Thursday.

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The pollster at Bangkok University interviewed 60 economists at 30 leading organisations between Feb 18 and 26 for a survey on the populist policies of political parties. 

Asked about the rice scheme's failings, 51% of the respondents said corruption, non-transparent processes and lack of effective monitoring systems had derailed the initiative, Bangkok Poll reported.

A further 29.4% pointed to mismanagement of the scheme, the inability to release rice in stockpiles, a lack of expertise among staff working on the programme and poor understanding of domestic and overseas rice markets. Another 29.4% said the scheme was failing because the rice-pledging price is higher than that of global market.

Asked whether political parties proposed populist policies during election campaigns in previous years, 48.3% of respondents said no and 41.7% said yes.

In the event that political reform does take place, the survey suggested that a committee to carry out feasibility studies into populist policies publicised during election campaigns could be set up. Of the economists polled, 76.7% said such a panel is needed, but 13.3% disagreed.

Questioned on how much authority the committee should have, 48.3% said its power should be limited to providing advice on the feasibility of populist policies to the public, but 40% disagreed, saying that the panel should have the authority to prohibit political parties from proposing unrealistic populist policies during election campaigns.

In total 96.7% of respondents thought election campaign policies should clearly show how funding for the plans would be obtained and how progress of the policies would be monitored if the parties were to win the election.

A further 93.3% said political parties must not propose irresponsible policies, 91.7% said policies should not seek to disrupt market mechanisms, 76.7% said policies must not put the government in the role of a business operator, 65% said the government should not possess patent rights to any products and 61.7% said money must be paid directly into the accounts of people befitting financially from any government policy.

Asked about whether politicians take responsibility for the economic mismanagement of policies, 66.7% of respondents said none do, while 31.7% said almost none.

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