In a surprising turn of events, Thailand’s Pheu Thai Party dropped a bombshell of an election pledge. This pledge had controversy written all over it – an ambitious promise to distribute 10,000 baht to all Thai citizens aged 16 or above. The intention? To act as a catalyst, to get the economy back on the fast track. But as is the case with every ambitious plan, this one too had to face its share of criticism.
This outcry of differing opinions led to a critical meeting of the digital wallet policy committee this past Friday. The chair of this meeting, the ever-so-accommodating Srettha, led the change in perspective. The result? A revised policy regarding those eligible for the handout.
At the meeting, Srettha admitted to the press that the popular – and often, unpopular – opinions of the public encouraged him to re-evaluate and amend the eligibility criteria. Under the new plan, Thai citizens aged 16 and above are eligible to receive the handout if their monthly earnings are less than 70,000 baht or if they have less than 500,000 baht in their respective bank accounts.
In this revised scenario, as Srettha revealed, the eligible demographic dips down to 50 million people, a slight reduction from the 54 million initially projected.
Dissecting the Budget
Lowering the number of people who qualify didn’t seem to reduce the budget requirements, however. Interestingly, the premier stipulated that on the contrary, executing this revised policy would demand an even higher figure – around a colossal 600 billion baht. This figure overshadows the previously quoted 560 billion by an additional 40 billion baht.
So, where would this money go? The allocation would be split into two parts. About 500,000 baht is to be deployed directly into public distribution and the remaining 100,000 set aside to fuel the development of the country’s digital economy framework, including incentivizing more substantial investments.
The intriguing part was his revelation about how these plans would be funded – through borrowings. To ensure this, the government would formulate an act, bring it to the Council of State for review, then to the Cabinet, and finally to the Parliament for the green signal.
The Effective Use of Funds
To ensure the effective use of funds, Srettha explained that the money recipients have a six-month window to use this handout. Moreover, the money could only be spent inside stores registered in the same area as their National ID card address.
He also cleared the air about the mediums of spending. The digital wallet would strictly be for purchasing commodities, ruling out any use for clearing debts or bills or educational expenses. There will be no provisions to convert this handout into cash.
If you thought the government generosity stops there, think again! There are plans for another initiative “E-refund,” envisaged for those who will not be beneficiaries of the 10,000-baht handout.
Srettha, the PM, believes in the necessity of this move -a ray of hope for the Thai economy, which he believes is in a critical condition as compared to neighbouring nations. He confidently stated that rejuvenating the economy strongly depended on this giveaway’s strategic implementation.