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Drama Unfolds! Thailand’s Death-Defying Balancing Act: How The 500 Billion Baht Digital Wallet Controversy Ignites Political Firestorm!

Engaging in a passionate diatribe during a live-stream presentation on Facebook, Jatuporn Prompan, a prominent critic of Thailand’s Pheu Thai Party, voiced his concerns over the government’s digital wallet scheme. Known for his historical role as a red-shirt leader and currently serving as a co-leader of Kana Lomruam Prachachon, Mr. Jatuporn views this initiative as a potential Achilles heel for the current administration.

The primary concern stems from distrust towards the ruling party, stemming from its track record of reneged promises. This disharmony reached a crescendo when Pheu Thai jettisoned its pro-democracy cohort, the Move Forward Party, in favor of forming a government with previous administration’s core entities such as the Bhumjaithai, Palang Pracharath, and the United Thai Nation Party.

Adding fuel to the contentious fire, Mr. Jatuporn brought up the government’s wavering stance on wallet policy financing, particularly its abrupt switch from a pledge of no loan procurement for the flagship project to proposing a 500 billion baht borrowing initiative. This blaring inconsistency greatly contributed to the uproar from critics.

According to the articulate Mr. Jatuporn, this proposed borrowing scheme might not pass legal muster for it must comply with Thailand’s State Fiscal and Financial Responsibility Act, necessitating specific requisites for emergency funding. If this loan was truly critical as claimed, it should be marshaled via an executive decree instead of an act which would bypass potential legal hiccups.

Advocates for the ruling party, including Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, push back by communicating the severe economic crisis that Thailand is facing. They argue for a robust stimulus program as the vital catalyst to resuscitate the nation’s stagnant economic growth. The proposed solution involves a 10,000-baht handout intended to inject quick cash to Thai nationals who fulfill certain income and savings thresholds, with the execution slated for May 2024.

There are, however, sceptics who challenge this proposed remediation. Deputy Finance Minister Julapun Amornvivat worries about this approach potentially pushing the country’s debt beyond 70% of the GDP by 2027 if the budget deficit continues at pace.

Others like progressive movement leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit question the ideal use of the proposed 500 billion baht. Instead of quick fixes like immediate handouts, Mr. Thanathorn asserts that investing in infrastructure improvements like public transit, healthcare, and education would prove more beneficial in the long run.

Regardless, the government seems to loosely tie its wagon to Dhanin Chearavanont, the Charon Pokphand Group patriarch, as his array of 7-Eleven stores stand to significantly benefit from this wallet scheme. In his recent discourse to the Thai Chamber of Commerce, he emphasizes the need for non-conventional solutions to the current economic conundrum.

The drama thickens as Mr. Prompan opines about potential pitfalls of the proposed bill, echoing a general sentiment of apprehension. His prediction of a disastrous outcome if the bill fails to pass legal scrutiny or muster enough parliamentary support paints a grim picture for the ruling party.

Questions start flooding in as the scheme’s success hangs in balance, such as the political implications and fiscal strategy. Will the prime minister bear the brunt if the plan doesn’t materialize? Where would the 500 billion baht best serve the public interest? With these towering questions, Thailand’s fate hangs in a delicate balance.

Comment: Legal stumbling block may prompt axing of handout


– Srettha Thavisin (@Thavisin) November 16, 2023

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