Former Thai Finance Minister Voices Apprehension Over Government’s Digital Wallet Scheme
Former Thai finance minister, Thirachai Puvanatnaranubala, has voiced his apprehensions over the government’s proposed digital wallet scheme, a key promise of the Pheu Thai Party’s election manifesto. The government predicts this scheme will propel Thailand to achieve a 5% growth in GDP next year, a claim Thirachai questions, expressing uncertainty about the scheme’s potential to boost the nation’s long-term economic competitiveness.
Details of the Digital Wallet Scheme
The digital wallet scheme aims to provide a one-time benefit of 10,000 baht to Thai citizens aged 16 and over. The scheme stipulates that the benefit must be spent within six months and within a 4km radius of the users’ registered address. The execution of this scheme requires 560 billion baht, but the source of this funding remains unclear.
Government’s Defence of the Scheme
Deputy Finance Minister Julapun Amornvivat has defended the digital wallet scheme, asserting that it is designed to stimulate the grassroots economy and develop digital economy infrastructure through blockchain technology use. Julapun has reassured parliament that the government will adhere to fiscal discipline and will not source the scheme’s funding from national reserves, the social security fund, the Vayupak mutual fund, or borrowings that would increase public debt.
Former Finance Minister’s Recommendations
Despite the government’s assurances, Thirachai recommends a different approach. Instead of relying on a one-time financial handout scheme, he suggests that the government invest more in the supply side of the economy. He advocates for investing in enhancing the workforce’s skills, improving the education system, and addressing the issue of business monopolies to achieve sustainable economic growth.
Concerns About the Effectiveness of the Scheme
Thirachai has acknowledged that financial handouts may have been effective during the COVID-19 pandemic when the country was under lockdown and people needed help. However, he believes that such a stimulus is not immediately necessary under the current circumstances and will not result in a tangible economic return. Furthermore, he maintains that the government must reveal the source of the funds for the scheme and the exact amount of money required.
Prime Minister’s Stance on the Scheme
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who is also the finance minister, has insisted that the 4km limit will be maintained as a rule, except in some rural areas where there are only a handful of stores. He has also suggested that the government would soon announce the source of funds for its biggest economic stimulus campaign, reaffirming that the project’s funding would strictly follow the legal framework.
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