January 18, 2024
BANGKOK – Deputy Finance Minister Julapun Amornvivat admitted on Wednesday that the much-anticipated 10,000-baht digital wallet scheme cannot start in May as initially promised due to several factors.
He said the Pheu Thai-led coalition still needs to seek opinions from the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) and other relevant government agencies before proceeding with the 500-billion-scheme. This means the digital wallet scheme will definitely not be ready to be launched in May.
Julapun was speaking to reporters one day after the opinion of an NACC sub-committee against the digital wallet scheme was released and published by several news websites.
He said he could not confirm if the opinion was the NACC’s official stance because the government has yet to receive a formal document from the commission confirming it.
The minister, who leads a panel in charge of making preparations ahead of launching the digital wallet scheme, said the reported opinion was “clear and strong”.
“But the Cabinet and the digital wallet committee must wait for an official document from the NACC,” he said. “Both the government and the committee are willing to hear opinions from the people and government agencies concerned.”
The NACC subcommittee had reportedly compiled opinions from various economic agencies, concluding that the current economic situation does not warrant a massive 500-billion-baht loan for the digital wallet scheme. According to the panel, only crises like the 1997 Tom Yam Kung crisis, the great floods of 2012 and the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021 could justify such extensive borrowing.
However, NACC secretary-general Niwatchai Kasemmongkol said the panel has sent the NACC its report and the commission held a meeting to review it last week, but no decision has been made so far.
Meanwhile, Julapun defended the digital wallet scheme, saying it was endorsed by voters during the May 14 election and the government had added it to its policy statement to Parliament.
He said the economic crisis the government wants to address is not a structural one or an economic slowdown, but a concern for people suffering economic hardship.
“It’s a crisis for people facing financial problems,” Julapun said.
Noting that “democracy without empathy” would be heartless capitalism, he said: “The government and Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin have been visiting people nationwide and have witnessed their economic grievances.
“The government does not just work in air-conditioned rooms, while people are looking for an economic stimulus package. The government does not look at the economy in just theory, but we consider it from the dimension of people’s real suffering,” Julapun said.
He said the government would call on the NACC to send its formal opinion, which the authorities will consider along with the opinion of the Council of State.
“Based on the current timeframe, the handout cannot be launched by May. But the government is not giving up, and will definitely go ahead with the scheme,” he said.
Julapun denied the government will use the NACC’s opinion as an excuse to back out of the scheme as alleged by Move Forward MP Sirikanya Tansakun.
He also denied speculation that the government would water down the project by lowering the budget from 500 billion to 300 billion baht.
“We’ve never considered such ideas,” he concluded.