6 June 2024

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin announced a new set of guidelines today for the controversial digital wallet scheme, under which all Thais who are 16 or older, who have a monthly income of less than Bt70,000 and bank deposits not exceeding Bt500,000, will be eligible for the 10,000 baht one-time cash benefit, expected to be distributed next May.

He said that the scheme will add 10,000 baht into the pockets of about 50 million Thais, for spending on consumer goods, which will help stimulate the economy and raise the gross domestic product (GDP).

The prime minister also explained the source of the funding for the scheme, saying that it will be from loans, to be procured by the government, with the issuance of a loan bill, to be vetted by the Council of State, approved by the cabinet and sent for debate in parliament, to ensure that the scheme is legitimate. He added that the loan will be repayable within ten years.

The scheme will cost taxpayers about 500 billion baht, instead of Bt560 billion as originally estimated, because the number of people eligible will be reduced from 54.4 million to 50 million, after adjustment of the old guidelines, under which all Thais aged 16 or older were eligible, regardless of their wealth.

The prime minister explained that the government is receptive to comments voiced by several economists, as well as the Bank of Thailand, and decided to change the guidelines by targeting certain groups of people.

He said that the cash benefit will be in the form of baht currency, not cryptocurrency, to be distributed to all recipients around May next year through the “pao tang” application of the Finance Ministry, which may need to be updated, and with a backup of a blockchain system to ensure transparency.

The 10,000-baht can be used to buy consumer goods only, it cannot be exchanged into cash, used to make online purchases, to buy services or transferred to somebody else. The money can be used in registered shops in the districts where the recipients have residences. It must be spent within six months and the scheme will end in April 2027.

The prime minister insisted that the government is strictly adhering to fiscal discipline in implementing the digital wallet scheme, adding that additional projects will be introduced to achieve 5% growth for Thailand within four years.

He said that the digital wallet is not a welfare fund for the poor, but a scheme to inject money into the economic system, through spending by the people.