Saturday, 6 November 2010

Widening income gap key obstacle to true democracy, panel says

From Bangkok Post:
Many negative socio-economic factors such as absentee parents and gaps in economic conditions and educational opportunities hinder the development of Thai democracy, a panel said yesterday.  
Seven per cent of the 20 million households in Thailand have absentee parents, which results in their children being left behind to be looked after by ageing grandparents. This leads to inadequate educational care for children - a trend that is growing especially in the North and Northeast, Niphon Puapongsakorn, chairman of the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), said.
"This matter is directly linked to the current [political] conflict," he said. Niphon was speaking at a conference on social equality and Thai democracy organised by the King Prajadhipok Institute. The "replication of poverty" continues because grandparents, who are often less educated than their children, cannot nurture the need for knowledge in their grandchildren.
Another worrying trend is the widening income gap. Those with just high-school education under their belts experience the slowest growth in income, while people from low-income families are less likely to enter university.
Niphon said another worrying disparity was the huge gap of wealth, which could be bridged if the government introduced inheritance tax.
In a separate survey, Thawilwadee Burikul, King Prajadhipok Institute's research and development director, said only 25 per cent of Thais had savings. Meanwhile, 7 per cent of the respondents said they had to change residence recently because they could no longer afford the rent.
As for the dropping level of trust in society, Thawilwadee said most respondents had little trust in what they saw on television since the 2006 coup, while only 1 per cent of the population were politically active on the Internet.

Respondents in her survey were asked to weigh the value of democracy vis-a-vis the economy, and about half said the two were equally important, while 17 per cent considered the economy more important.
Only 6 per cent of the respondents valued democracy more.
Thawilwadee said that if people cared for the quality of democracy they should pay more attention to issues such as caring, allowing and accepting people who think differently and helping raise the level of trust among fellow countrymen.

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