Loan bill for digital wallet plan ‘is being checked’

Loan bill for digital wallet plan 'is being checked'

Loan bill for digital wallet plan 'is being checked'
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin clarifies the digital wallet scheme at Government House on Nov 10. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)

A bill allowing the government to borrow 500 billion baht to fund its digital money handout is being vetted by the Council of State and will be returned to the government as soon as possible, according to Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai.

His assurance came as a fresh petition was lodged seeking to stop the controversial scheme, a key election manifesto pledge of the ruling Pheu Thai Party.

After a number of economists raised concerns over the hefty financial burden the handout scheme will likely create, critics remain doubtful about the legitimacy of the government’s claim that the 500 billion baht in spending is vital for tackling a crisis caused by a deep slump in people’s purchasing power.

“The objective of this scheme isn’t simply to hand out money to people, but to stimulate the economy by augmenting people’s purchasing power, which has been at a low ebb,” said Mr Phumtham.

“While those who have enough money may say the economy isn’t in a crisis, for others, like vendors, the weak buying power of their customers has long been at a critical point,” he said.

If nothing is done to shore things up, the mechanisms designed to spur the country’s economy will become useless, he said.

“Some figures cited by economists to reject the government’s digital wallet scheme might not truly reflect the situation faced by people on the street and the businesses that employ them, he said.

The minister stressed that “real world” input must be taken into consideration.

Support expressed by many in the business sector for the digital wallet is also proof of that, and while some people are opposed, others are waiting for it, he said.

Under the plan, about 50 million Thais would receive 10,000 baht each in digital money to spend on consumer products in certain zones near where they live. Those eligible for the perk include anyone over 16 years old in one of the lower income brackets.

In another development, political activist Srisuwan Janya on Monday submitted a petition asking both the State Audit Office and State Audit Commission to examine the digital wallet scheme’s planned implementation and decide whether it is against the law on state financial and budgetary discipline.

The activist previously petitioned the Ombudsman to seek the Constitutional Court’s ruling on whether the 500-billion-baht loan bill is against Section 140 of the constitution and Section 53 of the 2017 law on state financial and budgetary discipline.

Three similar petitions were also submitted in April and October by other parties. Political activist Sonthiya Sawasdee was the first to petition the Ombudsman over the controversial giveaway on April 28.