Prime Minister Yingluck Government Meets the People Program (7/7/2012)
Teerat Ratanasevi (MC): Greetings, and welcome to Prime Minister Yingluck Government Meets the People program. Today, I, Teerat Ratanasevi will be hosting the show. Since the collapse of economical system in Europe, or Euro crisis, the fear of how this fall will affect Thai economics is spread out onto many. At the same time, how far along has the government prepare to handle with the water that will be coming in a few months. Today, the Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is here with us. Hello, Prime Minster Yingluck.
Prime Minister: Good Morning.
Eurozone crisis, GDP and economic situation
MC: How worried is the government, due to the crisis happening in Europe, on how much it will affect our economy?
Prime Minister: We are paying close attention to the situation in Europe but not so much that we would have stopped all the investments in Europe – as it can cause more harm than good to abruptly stop investing. What we do is, establish a new work section to keep track of what is going on in Europe. From what we have estimated, concerning both the world and our own economic stream, we decided to invite the 9 heads of financial-related government departments – including Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board, Bank of Thailand and Institute of Economic Affairs and Public Finance Development, Ministry of Finance to help us keep tracks of where the situation might be going. If the situation reaches to where we called Trigger Point; if numbers or growth rates hit a certain point where we should be very concern we will be ready to launch any measures necessary to solve the problems.
MC: As you said earlier, if the government launches any measures before actual problem arises it may instead decelerate our GDP, but may I ask what are the procedures to be done once the situation reaches the Trigger Point?
Prime Minister: For example, we look at our country’s number of GDP today, after the flooding crisis – the number has moved into a better shape. How so? We now look at our increased export rates, not meeting our expectations just yet. Looking at the numbers in graphs scale there are a possibility for it to move up higher, yet with the situation in the EU we have to keep our eyes open – up to this point, however, our export rates in the EU has grown bigger into 6.8%
MC: Although Europe may have slowed down its pace, there are still some numbers for us to count on…
Prime Minister: That’s right, the manufacturer industry has become better along with the agricultural and tourism. For tourism, there are some numbers of European tourists coming in Thailand so there is some growth but not in a rapid pace. We need to keep a close look to the number because we are still recovering from the flood. For the unemployment rate, the number is listed to about 300,000 people – including freshly graduates so we need to see on which positions can be filled up. To sum this up, I must say the best thing to do in order to stay up to the current and handle this situation is to not be overly alarmed, and at worst stop exporting our goods into European market. Instead, for example, if we used to export our goods to the 5 Eurozone crisis countries, we could try reducing the stocks or switch the market to other European countries. Also, other alternative is to have strict financial policies should be implemented to keep track of the money. We have ordered Ministry of Commerce to start a workshop concerning the export section – especially for jewelry, textile goods and agricultural products.
MC: The Prime Minister has attended the workshop about the exporting goods, and we have been hearing that the aim for the country’s export rates will remain at 15%
Prime Minister: We are figuring out the way to adjust the procedure to reach our goal – it is a challenging goal but not too challenging so I would want everyone to stay calm and not cutting the export chances by closing the market on Europe.
MC: There have been talks about establishing working groups to improve taxes problems. The policies suppose to contribute to expand the possibility of exporting goods.
Prime Minister: Yes, there are approximately 5 groups; the first group is working on important matters – jewelry and textile goods. The second group is the Logistics to expand the market and to work effectively with another countries.
SMEs and interagency cooperation on economic issues
MC: What about the SMEs? Has there been anything that supports this unit?
Prime Minister: Yes, the government pays good attention and gives great support to the SMEs as it is considered the big part of the economic system with great potential of growth. At the moment we are focusing on urgent issues in which concerning the export goods to Europe.
MC: All the government sectors mentioned earlier (9 ministries, Bank of Thailand and NESDB) do they share any information between the units in terms of estimating the situation together?
Prime Minister: They do share the information, also gather them and put them together to design a comprehensive templates that all the unit can apply to when looking for the source of any problems. For example, the unemployment rates – we need to look into the rates of newly graduates compare to the work market to see if we have produced what is in demand or not.
MC: In conclusion, there’s no need for people to be alarmed that the Eurozone crisis has affected greatly on Thailand because our number is in a pretty good shape and not too much inflation.
Prime Minister: That’s right, and also I would like the people to keep the reducing stocks amount and market alternation I have mentioned in their considerations.
Local markets. OTOP
MC: What about strengthening our local markets like OTOP?
Prime Minister: OTOP is one of our policies the government has been working on to expand the working markets. OTOP products come from our people’s wisdom; this is a good standing ground. What the people need is to learn the strategies to increase their products’ quality, the manufacturing and marketing in which we have divided into several categories – food, clothing, appliance, local products or accessories. We have to plan about what we should do to improve and develop the researching center and the products themselves. Also, we have to make sure that the OTOP group can access to the capitals within the financial institutions. Besides the OTOP group, there are many other groups. In order to help them with the marketing, we have to understand that the operators are divided into various different categories. For example, some groups can create the very neat and beautiful products but the sale is not widespread. The marketing of this group will be focused on the beauty and the uniqueness of the products. This group will be perceived as the ‘outstanding start’.
MC: Does this consider as a change for the old system, 4 or 5 starts OTOP or is this just a new system to categorize OTOP?
Prime Minister: The system of the different stars in OTOP still remains the same. However, what we are doing is considered as the way to solve a problem. We are not solving a problem in a big picture because it means that every problem would be tackled in the same way. However, in order to achieve the goal, we have to understand the problems of each specific group. There are 4 specific OTOP groups with different problems. The first one is the ‘outstanding start’. This group has a high production capacity and high quality workmanship. Also, it has the potential to be exported, sold nationally or to be placed in the malls.
MC: Is this called bringing the outstanding start globally?
Prime Minister: Yes, it is. The second group is the group that reserves the value of the products. It is producing a real handiwork. The machine cannot be used. It has to be only the skillful labors. The product sample is a carving silver or lacquer artwork. The marketing will have to be focused on the premium and the uniqueness of the product. Another group has a high production capability but low skill and quality of works. The craftsmen should be more trained. The last group has a low ability in both the quantity and quality. We have to really be involved and understand their problem whether they want more capitals or if they need to be working on more of the administration. In terms of the last group, we deal with those problems first in order to gather the detail and the information then we can move on to the marketing and distribution channels.
MC: Some people say that the problem of OTOP is that it only produces in within the community. How are they going to sell it to the other places? How to promote the products in Chiangmai province to people in the South? Is the government going to provide any helps?
Prime Minister: Some groups can afford to have their own shops but for those who do not have both OTOP and money to afford their own shop. The government might give it a hand. We will take care of the direct sale which is MLM. We will cooperate with the private sector to distribute OTOP products to the households or the department stores. We would ask the department stores to have a corner for the local products of each province. For instance, the Bangkokian will have a chance to see the products from the South or the Northeast. The products will be available to buy. This is one of the governmental strategies to help with the OTOP marketing.
MC: Do you have any plans to ask the Thailand Post Co. to help with the shipping online products?
Prime Minister: There are many ways to do the direct sale. We can do it through shop sale, MLM, sale representatives and the online sale which we will be using the Thailand Post Co. as the median.
MC: In terms of linking the OTOP products with the tourism, Miss Prime Minister, you mentioned to me about how Japan links their OTOP with the tourism. What is the procedure of that project?
Prime Minister: Actually I wasn’t going to reveal about it but since you asked so I just say some parts of it. In terms of tourism, many major tourist attractions have the traveled train pass by. As I once mentioned in this program that in Japan, they sell OTOP products on the trains. Therefore, I would like to see our OTOP on the trains and also in each station. This is a good integration of tourism and Thai local products.
MC: We are looking forward for how it is going to turn out.
Prime Minister: Yes, we will see.
MC: The major OTOP activities are still being held?
Prime Minister: Yes, we still have them but we are focusing on adding product’s value and dealing with the product distribution channel not only holding the OTOP activities.
MC: We have to wait for the time, right?
Prime Minister: If we have an official OTOP shop, we will have the opportunity to compete and have more channels.
MC: When we mention about OTOP, it will remind me of one of community projects. The government has started the SML village fund. Many doubts and concerns have been raised that the process of the program is very slow. Also, people cannot really see the result of this project. What is the process of the project right now?
Prime Minister: With regards to SML, we already officially announced to everyone that the money of SML is actually depends on the size of a community whether it is small, medium or big. We already transferred the money to each community. This amount of money would be spent on solving the problems of each community to whatever they decide.
MC: So it means that the province or the district does not have the authority to say where that money should go. It has to be the decision within each community?
Prime Minister: Yes, that’s right. The community has to vote for the committee. After the decision is made by the community, the committee will be the one who propound what project or problem they want to spend the money on. The right is fully given to the people. The government will not interfere. We are just only going to facilitate them. People can contact the SML fund in case there are any problems. This project is actually request by them. I believe that an economic problem is important and should be solved. The government might not see the problem in a small area. Therefore, we provide them this SML fund so that they can solve the problem themselves. This is a democracy within a community.
MC: We can see what the community really wants. How do you measure the success of this fund?
Prime Minister: Firstly, it can be measured by how many people come ask for the projects and also the acceptance of each project. It really depends on the decision of a community. For example, if there are any useless projects, people have a right to dismiss it. This is a strategy that allows people to fully manage their money and practice the democracy.
MC: So you really assure that the government will not interfere with that money?
Prime Minister: Yes, I do.
MC: Also, the local government such as the province and the district government do not have a right to involve in this money at all?
Prime Minister: No, they don’t. It is totally people’s decision.
MC: In case you have any problems, we are showing the contact number on the screen Tel: 02-100-2409 dial 2410 or 2462 or through a letter; Po. Box 11, 5 Pak Kret, Nonthaburi 11121. Let’s take a break and then come back to talk with Miss Prime Minister about how to response to a flood that might be happening this year.
MC: Welcome back to Yingluck Government Meets the People. With regards to the water management, many people have been asking how ready the government is before the flood can actually happen .How ready is the government at this moment, ma’am?
Prime Minister: We have been visiting many provinces. I know everyone might want to see the result faster. We are trying our best. Let me explain to you about each part. For example, the water management of the upstream and the emergency area that will happen this year, we will build up the temporary and permanent weirs. They will be built in approximately 3,000 places in total. However, there has not been much progressed. We are trying to add more labor into it. Everything is expected to be done in 15 July 2012. Tree planting is a long-term 5 year project. The second part is planting 30 million of the vetiver grass. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the army will be helping about this project. Most importantly, Land Development Department will be cooperating and supporting the planting project to be done in 2 months.
MC: This also helps to decelerate the water from the upstream. Therefore, the weirs are very important. If the weirs that Miss Prime Minister mentioned are finished, they could slow down the water for the central and from the downstream.
Prime Minister: I have to say that we cannot finish planting everything in this short time. We will be focusing on the slope areas in order to delay the water fist. We have to focus on the emergency one and then taking care of the rest respectively.
MC: for the issue about the dams last year, we have seen from the statistics that when it reaches rainy season, the amount of water in the dams is quite high which make the water management quite difficult. For this year, how is the government dealing with the water management and reducing the amount of water in dams?
Prime Minister: the water level this year is similar to the number last year which is at 60%. But for today the water level is at 44%, so many people are worried if the water level is decreased, there might not be enough water for usage. This depends on the management of keeping the balance of the efficient use of water. From the information we have, during the worst drought year in 2010, the water level was at 30%. This year, the water level is at 44%, so we can say that this amount of water will be enough for the draught and will also be sufficient to reserve over 10,000 million cubic meters more water.
MC: so we don’t have to worry about the dams because the government has followed up the statistics since the beginning of the year?
Prime Minister: That’s right. Beside this, we also have the integration of the Electric Generating Authority of Thailand, the Royal Irrigation Department, and also the single command center of the Strategic Committee for Water Resources Management to be the subcommittee for monitoring the water level every single day and following the situation very closely.
Database for water management
MC: so how is the database going with following up the data about water? Are any of the centers ready for receiving information from each point?
Prime Minister: The database we are using to collect data about water are all solid data at real time. The data is nicely gathered, but it still lacks in analysis that will be bring out to the people. We will talk about that at the end when we talk about the issue of data management or our single command center. So from now on, we are going to adjust the water level in the reservoirs. The Royal Irrigation Department (RID) has also collected names of places that can be holding more overflow water which is 2.1 million Rais in total. Out of these areas, 1.3 million Rais are natural places, while 800,000 Rais are areas under the control of the RID. Mostly, we are going to use the natural places and we think that if we manage this well, there will be no effect to the people. That’s why we are mostly using areas that are naturally reserving water first. However, we are also dredging up more canals, ponds and swamps to efficiently hold more water. From what we have now, these places will be able to hold over 5,000 million cubic meters.
Progress on canal dreding
MC: How is the cooperation between each institute and dredging up canals working out so far?
Prime Minister: The progress of dredging up canals is moving forward quite well. We have almost finished with all the canals. But we might still have to speed up more with the area around the river mouth. Besides that, we have also investigated for more places to dredge up and we are thinking of linking main river basins together and make sure the water can flow to the river mouth. But we are still having problems with the river mouth because the river mouths are mostly very narrow. Recently, we have consulted with the Governor of Bangkok on what we should do to be more efficient in expanding canals so that the water can flow to the floodgates better. We will work on this more in detail later on. Besides that, we will also have to improve the condition of the safety system. We cannot just worry about the flow of the water, but we also have to pa attention closely to the safety system. For example, as the citizens have heard a lot a while ago about the problem with the dam’s safety and its condition, we will strengthen the dikes more especially in the west where there are some cracks from last year and we will also repair the whole dike on Tajeen River side. Moreover, we will add more safety system in the north of the dike. If you can still remember Mr. Teerat, the situation in the south of Chulalongkorn water gate, we have stationed water pumps and also build more water dikes to support both of the existing dikes all the way from the south of Chulalongkorn water gate up to Rangsit Canal from Canal 1 to Canal 7.
MC: People who live nearby Rangsit Canal will see that there is a dike that is built up to Canal 7?
Prime Minister: that’s right. This dike will help strengthen the riverbank where the water level is too high.
Flood prevention measures and coordination
MC: The aim is to protect the main economic area from being flooded, right?
Prime Minister: Yes and all the repairs for dams and water gates that we have heard about will be done by August.
MC: How did the government discuss with the Industrial Estate Authority on their progress of building the dikes? As some estate said they get paid too slowly some time.
Prime Minister: There is not a problem about that anymore because the estate itself has already solved its own problems. The government has supported the estate with special funds for building dams or dikes and also elevating the roads around the estate, to make sure that the transportation won’t be as inconvenient as last year. This issue will be under the supervision of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications.
MC: Meanwhile, we can’t completely say that there will be no flood at all in some area. So is there any plan for educating the people about the water way and training them how to evacuate in case the flood really comes?
Prime Minister: yes, we have put order to the Ministry of Interior to integrate new plans by using the existing plans of the Strategic National Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction and improve them according to our past experience. Then we will integrate our plans along with other ministries, including the military, and use all the equipments the government has to create the best potential out of our plans, so that we can be highly effective in helping our fellow citizens. Then we are going to apply these plans to each community. In the past, these plans were just big plans and couldn’t be applied to the community, so we are pushing this through before rainy season comes. If we accomplish with these plans, we can apply them to other disasters as well.
MC: These other disasters you are talking about are not just with water, right? We can also apply these plans to other kind of disasters?
Prime Minister: That’s correct.
MC: Besides the concern about the dikes, how is the government taking care of the narrow blocking areas where the water cannot flow through to reach the ocean?
Prime Minister: We have already looked at the problem and found that there are some areas with shallow sandbars. So we discussed with the Ministry of Interior and the local administration in order to work together with the shallow canals and install water pumps around the area that were flooded in the past few years. The government has speeded up this plan and also installed CCTV to closely observe the situations and the water amount.
MC: That means the equipments, including water pumps, are ready in those areas where there were problems with flood the past few years?
Prime Minister: I can’t say we are completely ready because there are still some villages that our budget and equipments are not enough to support. We are installing the equipments in the areas where they are mainly affected the past years, but for the smaller communities, we would have to ask for cooperation from the local governors to install these equipments for the people and also install the warning systems. Then we will also install telemeters for measuring water level around all the big areas.
Single Command Center
MC: Although we have covered many issues including water source, river body, and river mouth, but if the flood really comes, how is the water management center that you called “single command” working out?
Prime Minister: I have to say that the center has already worked with taking care of the water level, the amount of water in dams and also set up some committees. Today, we have done that and have also integrated technical data, but there are still some details that need to be added because nowadays, we will see that there are many institutes that are associated with technology including the Meteorological Department, the Royal Irrigation Department, the Electric Generating Authority, etc. Many groups know about the same issue of water management, so we will have to discuss and divide our parts in order to get rid of the repetitive jobs and be more united with researching information about technology. Therefore, we will create a database that will make our technical data unite. The database will be divided into 3 levels. The first level is the deepest level which will include all the working teams and technical staffs from the RID, the Strategic Committee for Water Resources Management, and the Ministry of Science and Technology. This group will collect data from water including water level in the ocean and canals, current rate, and data from the land including the height and the depth. These data from each branch of technology will be collected in the deepest database level which is the first one. Then we have another group that will evaluate the data and pass the evaluation along to the involving authorities who are divided into local authorities, such as provincial governors and authorities from the ministry. For this second level, we will also have truth checking centers to check the reliability of the local data because in the past, you would see that when we gave out warning, we would give warning to major areas, but then we still had to check deeper to local areas to see which areas really got affected by the flood. For example, in Angthong, we knew that the whole province got flooded but we did not know specifically what part of the province. Therefore, for this second level, we would like local authorities to report to us about problems in each area and how much the problems affect the people, then we will combine these data with the addition of data about citizen’s services such as the number of available hospitals and available shelters. We need these kinds of data from the local in our database.
MC: So, the first step for this whole process is to make a research and some data are the scientific facts that have to come from other departments and agencies such as the water fluctuation, sea water levels, and the amount of rainfall are considered as the general facts. Am I correct?
Prime Minister: Yes. This also includes the air and water levels in each dam and canal.
MC: The next step after they gather this information is to verify and investigate if the data is true or not. Am I right?
Prime Minister: That’s right. As you can see from the latest flood we encountered that some areas were reported that water from the floods were drain but, for some areas that weren’t true. This is why our second step is to examine all the information we receive. After we make sure that all the facts are right we then inform citizens and media about them in the website we created. This would make everyone receive the same stories from the reliable source and I think this is really important in times of crisis to report the same news and to know the same things. However, not only the government would provide citizens the report, we also want some help from citizens from all places in the country to verify and update the information we report again because some areas have very minor details that the government cannot reach. With this integration, it would be even more accurate.
MC: This means that besides the scientific data we have to listen to the citizens who live in those areas as well. Therefore, I think we have 3 steps already for the process. Furthermore, to send or report the information to citizens, do you think it would be fast enough and up to date to the real situations?
Prime Minister: Some do and we would call those as “real time information”, but some still don’t because there are still a few limitations because some data are not being collected by computers or high-tech equipments and we need sometimes to convert and work on them. Nonetheless, we are trying give the priority to what we think is the most important and we’re working on it to improve the system.
MC: Who is the director of this Single Command?
Prime Minister: It depends on the levels of news and reports. For disaster prevention and mitigation, if it is for a small area in amphur, the amphur-chief officer would be the director for single command. If it is for a province, the provincial governor would be the director for single command. But if it is for a country, then the Prime Minister would be the director for single command and so on. As you can see, we have levels of how we do stuffs starting from good data warehouse, accurate technical information, until warning system. For the warning system, we have to know how do we warn these people and who is going to take charge at the center. Once we know this information, we will prepare and practice, which will be very detailed and still has lots get done. This is all about a good management and a serious cooperation from the every ministry throughout these two months.
MC: A single command will have the power and the ability to give an order to any institutes without giving orders consecutively.
Prime Minister: Yes. For this case, we will use the authority of the Prime Minister to issue orders. However, when disasters occur we would use law codes from the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation together with law codes from Ministry of Interior. Still, when we use these law codes together in the future we have to examine and study that after this integration working, how we are going to do with these laws and procedure. For this procedure, there’s for sure going be some parts of the work where the Ministry of Interior need to do the work themselves and some parts of the work that the government and other departments and agencies have to work as one. We really have to work this out.
MC: I see. What about channels and systems that the government use to inform people, how’s that going so far?
Prime Minister: For now, one of our channels is through the Ministry of Interior, which already are connected to local administration and for the community and people, we’d use some kind of communication like radio to get through people. Today, we also add more communication channels such as website and SMS to inform the public know what’s going on. We also need help from entrepreneurs to help us notify people who live in their areas, who will be effected from the situations.
MC: So, this means that the warning system will be more efficient and more organized for the citizens to protect themselves from natural disasters and other dangers.
Prime Minister: Yes
MC: Is this only for the floods or other natural disasters too?
Prime Minister: This is for every kind of natural disaster. But, for today we’re worried about floods the most. We’ll try to adjust and adapt the system up to the kind of natural disasters we will encounter. It may be slightly different for each crisis to communicate.
MC: We have to admit that Thailand’s image is pretty much damaged because of the floods. How are we going to gain back the trust and people’s trust from the floods?
Prime Minister: I think we’re in a pretty good position. The numbers of international arrivals for this year have increased more than any other years or even the number of export goods is also increased. We can also see a sign of good future from the guests that have come visited our country. In these past couple weeks, we have welcomed so many important guests such as his majesty the King of Brunei, who just recently officially visited Thailand, Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan, President of Guinea, and the Vice President of Vietnam.
MC: Still, for some people, who read and follow the news would know that Thailand’s political position is not that stable right now because of the constitutional issues, which maybe cause some troubles to the government’s work. What is your point of view for this?
Prime Minister: We as the government must listen to both sides: criticisms and political issues. The government has to work really hard and have to concentrate on work especially today’s problems such as the economic issues and the water management. For the political issue we’re facing right now, so far we’re in the process of clarification to the Constitutional Court as well as the government. We believe that the Court will examine the facts and uphold justice.
MC: So, for now the government will continue substantially manage the country to prevent any further issues that might happen. But, what would the government do if the court orders come out?
Prime Minister: For now, we haven’t prepared anything yet because we think that we should wait for the result to come out first and then decide what we’re going to do. But, I have to let you know that today we have passed a couple steps of the process already. Therefore, now we just have to wait for the legislature to decide what to do next and listen to their examination.
MC: I see. So, right now this means that the government is still going to work hard and do their best for the people in the country no matter what the problems are?
Prime Minister: Yes, we are still going to work hard for the country and our people.
MC: Work hard for the country and people. Thank you, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra very much for today sir. As you guys can see, the government are really determined and work hard in order to enhance quality of the country. We can also see that the government is trying their best to handle all the crisis that might happen to our country as well as trying to support and enhance OTOP projects to another level. And for flooding issues, the government is now trying to take care of the water problems from upstream to downstream water managements including the single command system, which is the integrated resource center that I believe will help us handle natural disasters quite well. This is all for today in the Prime Minister Yingluck Government Meets the People Program and I am Teerat Ratanasevi. Thank you very much.