(27 January) The government will seek loans from 33 commercial banks in Thailand to pay debt incurred by the rice-pledging scheme, Finance Minister said.
Mr. Kittirat Na Ranong hopes the government will be able to raise 130 billion baht to pay rice farmers who participated in the controversial programme.
The money is expected to be given to the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Co-Operatives (BAAC), the sole representative responsible for the payment, within this week to clear off debts the government owed to the farmers, Mr. Kittirat said.
According to Mr. Kittirat, the loan from commercial banks should allow the government to process the payment as soon as possible, which is a better option than releasing government bonds.
The Ministry will choose to borrow from the banks who offers the lowest interest rates, he said.
However, he admitted that there are some difficulties for the plan, as anti-government protesters have previously marched to Krung Thai Bank and the Government Savings Bank and demanded that the two banks refuse to lend money to the government, citing possible corruption.
Other banks are also skeptical whether the loan will be ruled illegal by the Constitutional Court later on, Mr. Kittirat noted, since the eligibility of the scheme has been extensively questioned by anti-government critics.
“We must admit that many commercial banks are worried about their image if they decided to lend the government some money for the scheme”, the Finance Minister complained.
However, Public Debt Management Office (PDMO) Advisor, Mr. Suwit Rojanavanich, remains positive about the plan, stating that many banks would be happy to lend the government the funds, and that they are only concerned by the security and interests from the loan.
According to Mr. Suwit, lending the budget to BAAC, which is guaranteed by the Ministry of Finance, is "100% safe" and will allow the banks to secure their large sum of returns rather than looking for small borrowers.
Meanwhile, protests by farmers who demand rice money they had been promised under the programme continued in various rice-growing provinces, such as Kampangpetch, Buriram and Ang thong.
In Kampangpetch, farmers from 11 districts submitted their documents to Mr. Adul Jankamjadphai, president of the provincial lawyer council, expressing their wish to sue the government, BAAC and other related authorities for failing to make the payment as promised.
In Buriram province, farmers in Lamplaimas district gathered yesterday in front of a polling station for advance voting and demanded that the voting be canceled.
The demonstrators also demanded the government to use the election budget to pay the farmers who mortgaged their rice under the scheme. Reportedly, over 50,000 farmers in the province are waiting for the money – a total of more than 4 billion baht.
In Ang Thong province, many farmers joined People′s Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King as Head of State (PCAD) protesters in the occupation of in-bound Asian Highway in Mueang district to demand the payment from the government.
Ang Thong governor, Mr. Pawin Chamniprasat, negotiated with the demonstrators and promised to urge the government to pay the farmers by 31 January. Satisfied by the promise, demonstrators then agreed to disband but threatened that if the government fails to keep their promise, they will protest again on 1 February.
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