Wallet Handout Launch Delayed Over Legal, Corruption Concerns

The government plans to introduce its flagship digital wallet program in the final quarter of the year. Deputy Finance Minister Julapun Amornvivat indicated that the schedule for this initiative would be detailed after the digital wallet policy committee’s meeting on April 10.

Officials have tentatively set May for the program’s launch, though it is expected to face delays due to legal challenges.

Warnings from the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) have highlighted various concerns with the program, from corruption risks to legal complications.

Deputy Minister Julapun recently noted that the policy committee on digital wallets would meet to consider input from over 100 entities across both the public and private sectors.

This committee is tasked with addressing the NACC’s concerns and directing the Finance Ministry to find a practical solution.

Mr. Julapun mentioned that relevant departments are gearing up for the policy’s rollout and will update the digital wallet committee by April 10.

Following this, the committee will finalize the project’s specifics and present them for cabinet endorsement.

Once the cabinet approves, the project’s legal, financial, and technical aspects will be established swiftly, according to Mr. Julapun.

“Registration for the 10,000-baht digital wallet scheme is expected to start in the third quarter of this year, and the money should be transferred to eligible recipients’ accounts in the last quarter.”

“The scheme will definitely proceed. The offer will remain the same—a 10,000-baht handout for 50 million people via the Pao Tang application,” he said.

This digital cash program is a key initiative by the Pheu Thai-led administration to boost the economy.

Eligible Thai citizens over 16, earning under 70,000 baht monthly and with less than 500,000 baht in savings, will each receive 10,000 baht.

This adjustment means around 50 million people qualify for the giveaway, a decrease from the initial 56 million.

Mr. Julapun highlighted the broad agreement on the need for economic incentives.

However, Senator Chalermchai Fuengkhon criticized the policy in a Senate debate, accusing it of vote-buying and urging the NACC to investigate the cabinet and Election Commission (EC).

He argued that the government’s repeated modifications of the program’s conditions without clear financing plans suggest inadequate preparation by Pheu Thai.

Despite these criticisms, the policy passed election commission scrutiny and was included among the government’s main strategies, even though details on funding were lacking within 15 days post-policy statement last September.

Mr. Chalermchai argued for an NACC investigation into the scheme’s constitutionality, citing additional concerns from various sectors, including the Bank of Thailand.

“The project isn’t cost-effective to implement because the government didn’t intend it to tackle the nation’s economic problems, he said.

“It only sought to give money away to people as promised during the election campaign. This could constitute a ‘promise to give’ (a vote-buying practice),”  Mr. Chalermchai added.

Senator Somchai Sawangkarn also urged the policy’s cancellation, arguing it contradicted the State Fiscal and Financial Disciplines Act and the constitution.