In an audacious move, Srettha Thavisin, the Prime Minister of the incumbent Pheu Thai Party, echoed his steadfast support for the 10,000-baht digital wallet stimulus package aimed at every Thai citizen above the age of 16 years. This declaration was made despite a wave of disapproval rippling through the expert panels. He made this bold assertion during a press event held on a balmy Friday matinee.
Renowned Bank of Thailand governor, Sethaput Suthiwartnarueput, had previously criticised this very policy. In response, the head of the government acknowledged his commentary and iterated that the Pheu Thai Party’s ears are wide open to any and all suggestions or recommendations related to the said scheme.
In an ambitious stride to underscore this digital wallet venture, the ruling government targets 56 million recipients. The plan is slated to hit the ground from the 1st of February. While the program’s budget stands at an estimated formidable 560 billion baht, its funding source remains shrouded in mystery.
Veerathai Santiprabhob, erstwhile BoT governor, expressed his dissent via a Facebook post on the same Friday. He penned down apprehensions based on past financial experiments by previous administrations. According to him, these multi-faceted policies, conceived for short-term wins, caused long-lasting fiscal implications and economic depressions.
Foremost among examples he furnished were the ill-fated rice price guarantee initiative and an equally problematic first-car policy. He cautioned in his note that the GDP-centric handout, designed as a temporary ford, could potentially boomerang and diminish Pheu Thai’s mass appeal in the upcoming election. In his view, the current project’s financial demands could overshadow the funding needs of other government projects.
The scheme has attracted disfavour from a sizeable group of academic experts. A plea to abandon this program has the backing of ninety-nine economists. A collective statement under the auspices of these scholars, researchers and university professors in economics pointed to the strong signs of economic recovery. With a forecasted growth rate of 2.8% for the current year, escalating to 3.5% in 2024, this government handout could be more damaging than helpful in their opinion.
The statement warns of a potential surge in inflation and interest rates due to such handouts. It reads: “The government has no pressing need to incentivize personal consumption. Rather, refining the public sector’s abilities for investment and exports should be its current focus.”