Premiership of Abhisit Vejjajiva

Abhisit Vejjajiva was formally endorsed by King Bhumibol Adulyadej as Prime Minister of Thailand on 17 December 2008. Abhisit ascended to power amid a global economic crisis.

Abhisit Vejjajiva in 2010.
Premiership of Abhisit Vejjajiva
17 December 2008  5 August 2011
Abhisit Vejjajiva
Cabinet Abhisit cabinet
Party Democrat
Nominated by National Assembly
Appointed by Monarch of Thailand
Seat Government House
 Somchai Wongsawat
Yingluck Shinawatra 

Seal of the Prime Minister

Key appointments in Abhisit’s government included PAD activist Kasit Piromya as Foreign Minister, construction tycoon Chaovarat Chanweerakul as Interior Minister, and investment banker and former Abhisit classmate Korn Chatikavanij as Finance Minister.[1]Massage parlor tycoon Pornthiva Nakasai was appointed Deputy Commerce Minister.

Abhisit’s first act as prime minister was to send SMS texts to tens of millions of Thai mobile phone users. The message, signed “Your PM”, asked people to help him solve the country’s crisis. Interested phone users were asked to send back their postal codes, at a cost of three baht. Abhisit was criticized for violating privacy regulations in the mass SMS. The National Telecommunication Commission says that mobile phone service providers may not exploit client information, including phone numbers, without their consent. However, it did not pursue action against Abhisit.[2][3]

According to a survey by Assumption University’s Abac Poll in May 2009, Abhisit received a 70% approval rating, the highest within the cabinet. The government’s overall approval rating was 59% “rather much or much” satisfied and 9.4% “very much” satisfied. Overall the government was rated 6.5 out of 10 by a majority of respondents.[4] In a nationwide survey conducted 24–25 December 2010, by Bangkok University, the government’s two years in power were rated 4.61 out of 10, with the PM’s performance at 5.17.[5]

. . . Premiership of Abhisit Vejjajiva . . .

Abhisit borrowed heavily to finance his various populist policies and stimulus packages. The government borrowed a record-breaking 1.49 trillion baht from 2009 to early 2011, compared to the previous 26 prime ministers who had combined borrowings of only 870 billion baht. Thailand’s national debt at the end of February 2011 was 3.59 trillion baht, or 40% of GDP.[6] By April 2011, the Governor of the Bank of Thailand, Thailand’s central bank, warned that implementing Abhisit’s populist policies might cause public debt to surge past the legal debt ceiling of no more than 50% of GDP. The government countered the BoT’s warning by claiming it was just expression of opinion in a technical manner.[7] Abhisit noted that several countries had experienced debt crises, but not Thailand.[8]

The global economic crisis had a major impact on Thailand, with unemployment increasing by 63% to 880,000 people nationwide between December 2008 and January 2009, and analysts predicting the country’s economy could contract by as much as 5% on the year.[9][10]

Abhisit responded to the crisis with two economic stimulus packages.[11] The government announced the first, 117-billion-baht stimulus package in January 2009. The package included a one-time issuance of 2,000 baht (approximately US$75) checks to people making less than 15,000 baht (approximately US$500) a month.[12] A training program, dubbed “Ton Kla A-cheep” was initiated for up to 500,000 new graduates and unemployed people. Free government education was expanded to up to 15 years, as written in the constitution, saving approximately 2,000 baht per term per student. A pension of 500 baht a month was provided to those aged 60 and above. Price guarantees were instituted to subsidize rice, corn, and tapioca farmers. The government provided funds to villages nationwide to carry out projects based on King Bhumibol’s sufficiency economy philosophy.

The cabinet approved the second, 1.4-trillion-baht package in May. The plan was called “Strong Thailand” (Thai Khem Khaeg), with the majority of the money dedicated to infrastructure improvements.[13] In addition, a program was initiated to provide resolve land-title issues for squatters living on state land.[14][15] The government attempted to transfer private loans from loan sharks to state-owned banks, protecting debtors from unreasonably high interest rate demanded by the loan sharks and helping them finance their families again.

By the end of 2009, Thailand’s economy had only contracted by 2.3%, buoyed by 5.8% economic growth in the fourth quarter of the year.[16]

. . . Premiership of Abhisit Vejjajiva . . .

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. . . Premiership of Abhisit Vejjajiva . . .

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