A pickup truck drives past high-voltage power lines in Pathum Thani. Electricity consumption has soared during the current hotter-than-usual summer season. (Photo: Pattanapong Hirunard)
On Saturday, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam defended a proposal to subsidize electricity bills this month, stating that it is not an attempt to boost the government’s popularity ahead of the May 14 election. On Tuesday, the cabinet agreed to allocate 10.4 billion baht from the central budget to subsidize the fuel tariff, easing the public’s financial burden resulting from increased electricity costs during an unusually hot season.
As a consequence, around 23.4 million people may receive a 150 baht subsidy to help pay their electricity bills this month. Mr. Wissanu explained that the central budget cannot be utilized if parliament has been dissolved, which happened when the election was announced. Nevertheless, the government can still seek permission from the Electoral Commission (EC) to spend money on emergency situations, such as floods, power issues, or epidemics.
“The EC had already granted permission [to use the central budget],” Mr. Wissanu said. “If they had deemed the cabinet’s resolution as a campaign strategy, they would not have allowed us to use it in the first place.” Ultimately, it is up to the EC to decide whether or not the move benefits a political campaign. “The decision was made to assist the public, not specifically for anyone to gain more popularity [before the election],” he added.
The cabinet submitted the subsidy request to the EC on Tuesday. However, the issue remains unresolved, as the EC has been preoccupied with preparations for Sunday’s advance voting and the primary polling day on May 14. “The government has consulted the EC on numerous matters, such as the promotion of government officials,” Mr. Wissanu stated. “Regarding the fuel tariff subsidy, the EC has not sent any letter of notice to us. As a result, it is uncertain whether the subsidy can be applied [this month].”
Mr. Wissanu said that if the subsidy is approved, it will apply to electricity bills from May to August. With an unusually scorching summer season, increased energy expenses have impacted millions of people, making the proposed subsidy a much-needed relief for many. As the nation anticipates the May 14 election, the government’s initiative to address electricity costs showcases its dedication to supporting citizens during this challenging period.