Thailand announces 46-billion-baht anti-poverty package

BANGKOK, July 15, 2008 (AFP) – Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej on Tuesday announced a 46-billion-baht (1.36-billion-dollar) raft of benefits to counter poverty caused by soaring living costs. The six-month anti-poverty scheme will provide tax cuts and free services for six months to Thailand’s worst-off, Samak told a news conference broadcast on national television.

The measures for the poor include cuts in taxes on fuel, delayed increases in the price of cooking gas, as well as free tap water, free electricity, and free transport in non-airconditioned trains and buses, he said.

“All the measures will take effect from August 1, except excise taxes cut that will began earlier on July 25,” Samak said.

Inflation in Thailand hit a 10-year high of 8.9 percent in June, driven by soaring food and fuel costs, and central bank officials have warned it could reach double digits this month.

Finance Minister Surapong Suebwonglee warned Monday that the country may not meet its growth target of 6.0 percent if global oil prices keep rising.