21 July 2024

The government was accused of being reckless and short-sighted in the planning and preparation of the 3.75 trillion baht budget for the 2025 fiscal year, aiming to address its own crises instead of the pressing problems of the country, with the “digital wallet” scheme being singled out for attack.

After the presentation of the budget bill during the House meeting today, by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, opposition leader Chaithawat Tulathon took the floor to attack it, saying that it fails to reflect the realities of the country’s situation.

Taking a closer look at the budget allocations, he expressed disappointment at the absence of anything new and lack of strategy or clear cut policy targets, adding that most of the new projects claimed by the government are, in fact, “old wine in a new bottle.”

The only thing new is the digital wallet scheme, said Chaithawat, adding, however, that such a populist policy will not stimulate production, investment or employment.

He predicted that most of the money being paid out under the scheme will end up paying for online and offline purchases of cheap products from China, which have come to dominate the Thai market.

If the government really wants to rescue the economy, he suggested it focuses on increasing investments, such as modernising the industrial sector and supporting the demand side.

Providing subsidies of up to 50 billion baht for Thais to buy EVs from China only helps the Chinese car industry, while the government has done little to upgrade the Thai production sector or to improve the skills of Thai workers, said the opposition leader.

He also pointed out that the 2025 budget is about 7.8% larger than this year’s, which is the biggest increase in a decade, with the amount of public borrowing reaching 870 billion baht.

He said the government is determined to implement the digital wallet scheme, regardless of its costs, because it merely wants to save face, which will be lost anyway if the project fails.

Former Democrat leader Jurin Laksanawisit said the budget is ugly and unrealistic, noting that it breaks the prime minister’s own promise to increase revenue and reduce the budget deficit.

“When the figures are revealed, it is a different story, as if the parliament is a House of Lies,” Jurin opined.