On a sunny day in Bangkok, an elderly woman shoulders a sack filled with rice and other necessities, generously gifted by locals at Wat Klong Toey Nok. The date was August 12th, a day marked out to honour mothers in Thailand.
Recently, the government found itself standing tall in defense of its new prerequisites rolled out for the elderly allowance, a support model designed to replace the current universal welfare payments. It argued that the older model of welfare payouts strained the treasury too excessively. The risk of limited accessibility due to the adjustments was a topic discussed in Tuesday’s cabinet meeting amidst escalating scrutiny. The record of the meeting was delivered by cabinet secretary-general Natjaree Ananthasilp.
Juti Krairiksh, the Social Development and Human Security (SDHS) Minister, made it clear in the meeting that if the existing criteria weren’t ameliorated, the government would have to bear the brunt of costs spiraling to 100 billion baht annually by 2025. This is in addition to the extra costs associated with the growing elderly population in Thailand.
Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda inked the new policy which appeared in the Royal Gazette the preceding Friday. The changes were in force the next day.
The defunct regulations mandated local governing bodies to disburse 600-1,000baht monthly as universal elderly allowance. The monthly payouts were age-tiered as follows: 600 baht for people aged 60-69, 700 baht for people aged 70-79, 800 baht for those aged 80-89, while seniors aged 90 years and above received 1,000 baht.
Contrarily, the new schematic, in effect since Saturday, ensures that only senior citizens with zero to inadequate income capable of sustaining their daily needs are eligible to apply for the allowance from the state.
However, a provisional clause in the new policy stipulates that those already registered for the welfare payout before August 12, 2023, are not subject to the adjusted eligibility requirements. Therefore, existing recipients are not affected.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha asserted that the modifications align with the advice of the national committee on the elderly, emphasizing prudent budgeting. Nonetheless, he agreed that additional allocation could be considered given increased financial resources of incoming governments.
“The population of senior citizens is swelling. There are some with sufficient money to cater for their needs, while others are indigent. We are therefore considering our financial position,” General Prayut said.
Minister Juti iterated that the next government will ensure a thorough review of the welfare payments for the senior citizens by their committee before landing on a final decision. He noted that approximately 4 million seniors live in poverty and with the budget limitations, it is essential to prioritize them.
The Social Development and Human Security Ministry currently operates on an annual budget of 8 billion baht. “For the new government to offer a monthly allowance of 3,000 baht, it would require additional tax levies to cater for the policy,” Juti highlighted. The 3,000-baht figure was cited from campaign pledges made by the political party, Move Forward.