The digital wallet project, which aims to distribute 10,000 baht worth of money to Thai citizens 16 and older and is spearheaded by the leading Pheu Thai Party, has become a contentious issue with growing opposition.
Some academics have published an open letter to the government, fearing that the policy will exacerbate government debt and inflation and will not bring the expected benefits. Some even compared it to the controversial rice subsidy scheme during Yingluck Shinawatra’s government, which was a factor in the military coup.
Srettha Thavisin, the Prime Minister, and the Ministry of Finance clarified on the weekend that the government has listened to the various concerns, suggestions, and recommendations of all parties, including the Bank of Thailand. They are willing to consider improvements but will not cancel the project.
Srettha emphasized that the digital wallet project is not a vote-buying program or an attempt to distribute money to gain political favor. The budget for this project is about 500 billion baht, and it is a one-time measure, not an annual expenditure. The government intends to use it to generate revenue. It has carefully considered and listened to feedback from all sides, including taxpayers and citizens who are very concerned about economic issues.
The government has already lowered electricity and fuel prices and recently forgave farmers’ debts. These measures are considered necessary and important because when people have high expenses and heavy burdens, they lack motivation to work. The government’s efforts to reduce expenses are intended to increase people’s motivation.
“If the people [are not] motivated, where will the capital come from? The people in the interior do not have as much money as the people at the top of society. There is a significant wealth gap in Thai society. They do not have money. The government set up this project to provide capital for people to live a life of dignity. The lack of capital for people’s livelihood is crucial, and the government must prioritize it. I assure you that we will not abolish the digital wallet,” the prime minister said.
He also mentioned that there should be detailed information about the project by the end of October.
Chulaphan Amornvivat, Deputy Finance Minister, added details on Monday that the subcommittee meeting to drive digital wallet measures will hold its first meeting on October 12, 2023, to address the necessity, benefits, objectives, projects, and different challenges. The subcommittee will then meet again on October 19 to debate all conclusions before giving them to the whole committee for discussion, and on October 24, they will present them to the main committee for decision.
“Of course there are concerns about economic stability. There are a lot of echos about this. But if we stick to the framework of stability, with the economy growing at an average of 2%, the people cannot escape the trap of hardship. As a result, it is the government’s responsibility to construct society. and the economy expands correctly on a stable base. You have to find a balance,” he stated.