23 May 2024

The labour union of the Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) has voiced opposition to the government’s plan to borrow about 172 billion baht from the bank to fund the “digital wallet” scheme.

Prayat Thammakhan, secretary-general of BAAC union, said bank’s employees are concerned that such a staggering amount of lending by the bank may affect depositorconfidence and the stability of the bank.

Moreover, he said the employees are afraid that the plan may repeat the mistake of about a decade ago, when the BAAC board was pressured by the then government of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra to lend the government about 50 billion baht to fund the infamous rice pledging scheme, resulting in tremendous loss for the state and the lending bank.

He said that the union disagrees with the opinions of Council of State and legal advisors of the Finance Ministry, that the government can borrow money from BAAC to fund the digital wallet scheme, and will submit protest notes to both agencies challenging their opinions.

According to BAAC, the government’s legal advisors have interpreted a provision of the BAAC Act, pertaining to projects or programmes promoting agriculture and farmers’ livelihoods, in a way beneficial to digital wallet scheme.

The BAAC labour union cited a recent opinion by former finance minister Korn Chatikavanij, claiming that the BAAC law does not provide leeway for the bank’s money to be used to stimulate the economy or to be used for endeavours not conducive to the objectives of state enterprises.

Korn also pointed out that seeking to borrowing from the BAAC to fund digital wallet scheme is a violation of fiscal discipline.

Former election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, meanwhile, said that he has read through the BAAC Act several times and didn’t find any provision that would allow the government to borrowing from the bank to fund the scheme “unless the bank’s board agrees to the government’s wish at their own risk of imprisonment.”

The government plans to start distributing 10,000 baht “digital money” each into the accounts of about 50 million Thais who are eligible for the benefit in the fourth quarter of this year.