January 30, 2024
BANGKOK – Casting doubts on an opinion survey saying that most people would be okay if the digital wallet scheme failed, PM Srettha Thavisin asked if the survey was comprehensive enough.
The survey had been conducted by the National Institute Development Administration (Nida Poll).
Srettha said he had visited several provinces and spoken to many people, and none of them had said they did not want the 10,000-baht handout.
“I wonder if the survey was thorough. Did they ask people in Nong Bua Lamphu and Bueng Kan provinces?” the premier asked. “Nobody told me that they don’t want the money.”
On Sunday, Nida Poll released its survey result which showed that 68.85% of the respondents said they would not be angry if the government cancelled the digital wallet scheme.
Commenting on the survey results, Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai, who is also deputy PM, said the government was willing to listen to opinions from all sides regarding the scheme.
He said he realized that there were plenty of different opinions regarding the project, but he wanted the critics to note the principles of the scheme.
Phumtham explained that the digital wallet scheme was the ruling Pheu Thai Party’s promise to the people during the election campaign and was later announced as a government policy to representatives of the people in Parliament.
“The most important factor is that this policy has been announced in Parliament and has become a commitment to people’s representatives and must be implemented,” Phumtham said.
The project’s future is seen as hanging in the balance after the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) announced that its subpanel had found that the country’s current state of economy does not warrant a huge 500-billion-baht loan. The NACC also warned that the project could face massive siphoning.
This warning prompted Deputy Finance Minister Julapun Amornvivat to concede that the project might not meet the May deadline, and that the governemntt may have to wait for the NACC to issue a formal opinion.
However on Monday, Phumtham disagreed with Julapun’s statement, saying the government did not have to wait for the NACC’s formal stance on the issue, but it would have nothing binding on the government.
He said the committee in charge of the scheme will meet as soon as possible to make a decision.
Phumtham said he had earlier said in a comment on X (formerly Twitter) that Thailand’s current economic situation was much like the Tom Yam Kung crisis of 1997. He clarified that this declaration was based on views from a group of economists who did not share the same opinions as the Bank of Thailand and other economists.
Phumtham said his government was now viewing the economy from different perspectives and this government believes that Thailand’s growth had come to a standstill over the past 10 years.
While vowing to go ahead with the 500-billion-baht loan to finance the scheme, Phumtham said the government had yet to consider if it will enact a bill or issue an executive decree to allow off-budget borrowing.