6 June 2024

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has reiterated the government’s determination to launch the digital wallet scheme early next year as promised, despite protests from a group of 99 economics professors, including two former governors of the Bank of Thailand.

Asked about the digital wallet by a chief monk of Kham Khuean Kaeo district of Yasothon, during his visit today (Saturday) to observe flood situation and to distribute relief materials to flood victims, the prime minister responded by saying that his government has been working on the scheme and will definitely implement it “because it is important and for the people.”

A 70-year-old woman told the prime minister that she will be glad to receive the money under the program, but doubts whether she will get it because she does not have a smart phone.

“Don’t worry, one ID card is enough,” the prime minister told her to allay her concern.

Former governors of Bank of Thailand, Tarisa Watanagase and Veerathai Santiprabhob, are among a group of economics professors, many of them former deans of Faculties of Economics, who issued a joint statement on Thursday advising the government to drop the digital wallet scheme, claiming that it will not be worth the spending.

Under the scheme, each Thai national who is 16 or older will receive 10,000 baht wired into their digital wallet, to be spent on goods and services within six months in shops within a 4km radius of their residence or from “Thong Fa” shops.

In the statement, the academics noted that Thailand’s growth rate this year is expected to be 2.8% and is forecast to increase to 3.5% next year. Hence, there is no need for the government inject money, estimated at 560 billion baht, to stimulate consumption.

They warned that stimulating spending may increase inflation, which is currently forecast to drop to 2.9% by yearend, from 6.1% early this year.

The 560 billion baht needed to fund the digital wallet scheme will mean the money will be unavailable to be put to better use, such as for investment in infrastructure for water management for sustainable development. Additionally, they claim that the fiscal multiplier from the spending under the scheme will be less than 1 and lower than the fiscal multiplier generated by state investment in development projects, according to the statement.

The distribution of 10,000 baht to all Thai Nationals who are 16 and older, regardless of their financial status, will also create social injustice, they claim, because the rich and super rich do not need the money.