February 7, 2024
BANGKOK – Deputy Finance Minister Julapun Amornvivat said on Tuesday the government could not wait until the NACC issues a formal opinion on the project. He added that the national digital wallet policy committee would convene a meeting next week to start working towards the bill’s enactment.
Julapun said he met Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who also doubles as finance minister, at Government House and they both agreed it was time to go ahead with the project.
Initially, the government had announced that it would hand 10,000 baht (US$280) to all Thais aged 16 and above in May provided they earn less than 70,000 baht per month and have less than 500,000 baht in savings.
However, when an NACC subcommittee disagreed with the scheme on grounds that the current economic situation does not warrant such a huge off-budget borrowing and that the project would be vulnerable to massive corruption, Julapun said last month the handout would not make the May deadline.
He then said the government would wait for the NACC’s formal opinion before it goes ahead with the scheme.
On Tuesday, however, Julapun said the government could no longer wait, and instead, it would start working to implement the project, regardless of NACC’s opinion.
Julapun said the national digital wallet committee would set up a subcommittee to set up regulations to prevent misuse of the money or corruption.
He added that the government had decided to go ahead with the project because last month’s statistics show the country’s economy is worsening.
“The people lack confidence to spend money and private firms dare not invest more,” Julapun said.
“Foreign investors invited by the government need to wait for more time, so consumption has slowed down.”
He added that inflation has been negative for four consecutive months, while the interest rate of loans has been rising, affecting liquidity in the private sector.
“Under this kind of situation, the country is like a pond that has gone dry and the public is like fish in this dry pond. So, we need to refill this pond by enacting the borrowing bill,” he said.
The deputy finance minister added that commercial banks and other financial institutions had also called him to say they wanted their systems to be linked to the government central app for handing out the 10,000 baht. This link will help the digital wallet platform become a more comprehensive payment tool, he said.
Julapun said he has assigned members of his subpanel to discuss the issue in more detail with the banks.
He said that though the handout cannot meet the May deadline, the government will accelerate the implementation of the scheme and the 500 billion baht budget will not be reduced.
“I can’t say whether or not the handout will be ready by the third quarter, but I can confirm that the budget will not be reduced,” Julapun said.