10K Baht Digital Money Handout Program Faces “War of Words”

The heated debate between the Pheu Thai Party-led government and the main opposition Move Forward Party (MFP), continued on Sunday over the disputed digital money distribution program, drawing an increasing number of critics who voiced their opposition to this key policy of the Pheu Thai.

Sirikanya Tansakun, deputy leader of the MFP, countered Adisorn Piengkes, a Pheu Thai list-MP, on Sunday following his challenge to bet her political future on the outcome of the handout scheme.

Adisorn Piengkes’ statement was dismissed as “ridiculous” by Sirikanya, who pointed out his evasion of pertinent questions about the scheme.

Sirikanya is still awaiting answers to her queries about justifying the proposed 500-billion-baht loan bill as urgent, necessary to pass the bill and circumvent potential legal issues.

She reminded that a previous 2-trillion-baht loan bill by Pheu Thai was denied due to lack of urgency, a lesson the party seems to ignore in its current proposal.

Sirikanya’s initial opposition to the scheme was voiced on Friday following Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s announcement of its implementation details. Srettha Thavisin responded, urging Sirikanya to stop spreading misinformation.

Pheu Thai defended the scheme on Saturday, emphasizing the urgency and importance of stimulating the grassroots economy.

Nonarit Bisonyabut, a senior researcher at the Thailand Development Research Institute, expressed concerns about the scheme’s potential financial risks and its impact on Thailand’s credit ratings.

Thailand’s public debt, at 60% of GDP, already exceeds recommended levels, according to Bisonyabut. He warned that if the digital wallet fails to meet its economic goals amidst a new crisis, Thailand would lack the financial means to respond.

Bisonyabut doubted the scheme’s effectiveness in boosting money circulation, given the current economic recovery.

Tanit Sorat of the Employers’ Confederation of Thai Trade and Industry raised concerns about the narrowing gap between Thailand’s public debt and its ceiling, especially with an additional 500 billion baht loan.

With public debt currently at 62% of GDP, borrowing 500 billion baht would increase it to 64%, posing repayment challenges for the next four years.

The 500 billion baht loan, equivalent to 2.9% of GDP, is expected to increase economic growth by about 1% through household spending, according to Sorat.

However, Sorat believes the scheme might cause more harm than benefit, noting the opposition from the Bank of Thailand, National Economic and Social Development Council, and Council of State.

Jurin Laksanawisit, acting leader of the Democrat Party, criticized Prime Minister Srettha for persisting with the loan plan, arguing it undermines the government’s credibility. He warned of a potential ‘credibility bankruptcy’ for the government, doubting its future assurances.