HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

PM to open nation’s first community biodiesel plant

BOT unconcerned over movement of the baht

‘Housewives hotline’ to help stop price hikes

Govt to set up new task force to probe finances of state officials

PM to open nation’s first community biodiesel plant

Thailand received its first community biodiesel production plant last Saturday when Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra officially opened the project in the northern province of Chiang Mai.

The project represents a cooperative effort involving the Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency and several other bodies currently conducting research into the use of biodiesel as an alternative fuel.

A pilot scheme for the project has seen the production plant combine used oil from a potato chip factory with conventional diesel fuel at a ratio of 2:98.

Able to produce 100,000 litres of the fuel each day, the plant will cost the fuel Bt0.50 (50 satang) per litre below the price of diesel.

According to Boonthong Ungtrakul, head of Chiang Mai’s biodiesel research project, tests on over 1,000 vehicles have shown that biodiesel does not harm vehicle engines, and in fact reduces emissions.

Biodiesel is already on sale in two Chiang Mai petrol stations, and will be sold in another three stations in the province by the end of this month.

Research will now begin into formulas which use proportionately more vegetable oil – much of it derived from local cafes - and less diesel.

Glycerine, a by-product of the production process, will also be used to make soap and shampoo in the future, when the Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency hopes to expand the project to other areas. (TNA)

BOT unconcerned over movement of the baht

The governor of the Bank of Thailand (BOT), M.R. Pridiyathorn Devakula has expressed satisfaction with the present movement of the baht, as he considers the current value appropriate under the present economic conditions.

The central bank has intervened to support the baht and ensure its stability after the local currency weakened rapidly over the past week, he admitted to journalists on Thursday.

It has now begun to stabilise at a suitable level in the current economic conditions, the BOT governor said.

The baht has depreciated by around 2% against the dollar and 5% against the euro since the end of April.

The weakening of the baht is likely to lead to an increase in Thailand’s exports to the European Union (EU) because they are now cheaper.

But a further depreciation in the baht would severely affect exports to other destinations, except the United States, he said.

“We don’t want the baht to weaken too much but we are committed to allowing the market mechanism to establish its exchange rate. We also do not want the currency to strengthen too much because it will affect the value of imports,” said the BOT chief.

The government’s decision to float diesel prices was the right move as it is likely to help the country save on energy.

M.R. Pridiyathorn shrugged off mounting concern over higher inflation. The central bank is well prepared to cope with inflation, he said. (TNA)

‘Housewives hotline’ to help stop price hikes

The Department of Internal Trade last week called on members of the public to help prevent retailers from raising the price of consumer goods by phoning a ‘housewives’ hotline’.

The hotline has been set up amid fears that recent rises in the prices of fuel could lead unscrupulous manufacturers and retailers to hike the costs of their products despite a government ban.

Siripol Yodmuangcharoen, the department’s director-general, conceded that prices were in a state of flux, but said that the department was sending out teams of price inspectors to ensure that consumers were treated fairly.

As part of the inspection scheme, the department is calling on ordinary members of the public to form networks of volunteer inspectors who can report their findings to department officials.

By phoning the ‘housewives’ hotline’ on 1569, these volunteer inspectors can offer information on companies suspected of violating the government’s price rise ban.

Siripol appealed for more members of the public to sign up to the scheme, saying that public participation would facilitate the department’s work and ensure that wrongdoers were brought to book.

Members of the networks are being offered the incentive of cash prizes worth 30 percent of the fine levied on the retailers if they come up with relevant information. (TNA)

Govt to set up new task force to probe finances of state officials

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra insisted that he would press ahead with the establishment of a special task force aimed at probing the finances of state officials.

The prime minister, who stressed that the new task force would not duplicate the work of the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC), said that the task force would, instead, relieve the commission of some of its workload.

“The NCCC has nine members. They simply can’t cope. There are over 2 million state officials, as well as state enterprise workers,” he noted.

Not all state officials will have to declare their finances to the new task force.

The new body will be specifically aimed at state officials who work directly with the public, and who might run into conflicts of interest.

Although the task force will deal with officials at all levels, it will focus on officials holding positions which could be easily open to corruption.

The prime minister said that he was currently trying to decide who should sit on the committee, and had asked Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam to help oversee the issue.

Stressing that the new task force did not break constitutional law, he said that it would not violate the personal freedoms of state officials, and would only open up the files of officials who were subject to complaints. (TNA)