Saturday, May 22, 2004

The farce has gone on long enough. About time someone (or better yet, the whole country) put an end to the lunacy.

LIVERPOOL PURCHASE: Bid to halt lottery plan

Published on May 22, 2004

A key member of the National Economic and Social Advisory Council has begun a signature campaign against the government's plan to launch a special lottery to raise funds for the Liverpool share-purchase scheme.

Several other members of the council, an independent body set up under the current charter, are likely to join Paiboon Wattana-siritham's campaign, as legal and constitutional questions concerning the bid keep growing.

"I don't mind if it's the prime minister's personal money," said Paiboon. "But to launch a lottery with huge prizes is tantamount to exploiting the people's susceptibility toward gambling and vice - a very detrimental approach."

In his letter to "All my compatriots", Paiboon noted that there seemed to be a double standard when it came to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's push to privatise state enterprises and his Liverpool bid.

Thaksin has been battling state-enterprise labour unions opposed to his privatisation plans. Only a few months ago, he said he was "willing to die" defending the principle that state monopolies are counterproductive.

Paiboon said the prime minister made the comment in spite of the fact that the state enterprise he most wanted to sell, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, was one of the most profitable.

He said that while Thaksin thought the agency should be sold off, he wanted to manage a foreign soccer club.

"We don't agree that the government or a state agency should buy a foreign football club because managing a foreign football club is not what any government should do," Paiboon said in his letter.

Although the special lottery will be sold to the public, funds raised will come under the Sports Authority of Thailand, which would set up a state enterprise to jointly manage Liverpool along with the current owners, and would make profits from commercial rights.

That the tickets will be sold through branches of Government Savings Bank only added to the absurdity of the situation, Paiboon said.

Meanwhile, Thaksin said Liverpool's decision on whether to sell a 30-per-cent stake to Thailand was not expected for several weeks. He denied Thai media reports that a memorandum of understanding would be signed this weekend.

"We want to make everything clear before joining in an investment with anyone. If things go well, maybe we can sign the memorandum in the next couple of weeks," he told reporters.

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