October 20, 2023
BANGKOK – The government scheme to hand out 10,000 baht in digital money to Thais is unlikely to start on February 1 next year as instructed by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, Deputy Finance Minister Julapun Amornvivat said on Thursday.
He said the delay was caused by the need for more time to develop a security system for the scheme.
“The prime minister’s instruction was for the handout to start by February 1, 2024. But that date will not be met. It’s because we need more time to develop a stable and secure system. We can’t compromise on security of the system just to finish the work in time,” Julapun said.
He maintained, however, that the system would be completed and the handout could start within the first quarter of next year.
The scheme calls for 10,000 baht in digital money to be distributed to all Thais aged 16 and above for them to buy things at shops within a 4-kilometre radius of their registered address in a six-month period. Julapun, however, said on Wednesday that the stipulation on 4km radius was likely to be scrapped.
The government has said the handout was aimed at boosting the Thai economy so that its GDP would grow as much as 5% per year.
Critics have warned that the scheme would become a huge financial burden for the country as it requires an estimated 560 billion baht in state budget. Among those opposing the controversial policy are former Bank of Thailand governors, former finance ministers, and many economists and academics.
Julapun, who heads a government subcommittee tasked with driving the handout scheme, said on Thursday that his panel had not reached a conclusion on the funding source and handout conditions. He said the subcommittee would meet again next Tuesday (October 24) and would submit its proposal to the digital-money handout committee, which is chaired by PM Srettha.
In response to suggestions that the handout should focus on vulnerable groups, Julapun said that this scheme was aimed at stimulating the economy, and it was not a welfare policy.
“This policy is aimed at stimulating the economy, as the country’s GDP growth has been low. If the government does nothing about it, the GDP will continue to see low growth. With this policy, we believe the GDP would expand close to 5%,” the deputy finance minister said.
Julapun dismissed concerns of possible irregularities that could taint this project in the same way as the Yingluck Shinawatra government’s rice-pledging scheme in the past. He voiced confidence that the system under development of this government would effectively prevent any corruption.
“We are sure there will be no irregularities. But if any corruption case emerges, the government would certainly take legal action,” he said.