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Thailand forges ahead with ‘digital wallet’ handout scheme, official says

THAILAND is forging ahead with a controversial 500 billion baht (S$18.6 billion) handout scheme and may still need to borrow to finance it, a deputy finance minister said on Wednesday (Mar 20).

Julapun Amornvivat made the remarks in parliament, which began a three-day debate on a 3.5 trillion baht budget bill for the 2024 fiscal year, aimed at reviving South-east Asia’s second-largest economy.

“We insist that it may be necessary to get a loan through a bill, but if there are any changes, we will probably seek approval from the members (of parliament) again,” he said. “But the project will definitely go ahead”.

The scheme would transfer 10,000 baht to some 50 million Thais to spend in six months, but it has been hounded by concerns over how it will be funded, with some experts calling it fiscally irresponsible.

Julapun also said the government hoped to achieve a balanced budget in an appropriate time.

The 2024 budget for the fiscal year ending September aims for a 9.3 per cent rise in spending and a drop of 0.3 per cent in the budget deficit to 693 billion baht from the previous year.

After the debate on the second and third readings of the budget, the budget will need further approval from the senate and the king.

The government has said the budget should be ready for use by early next month, delayed from the original start date of Oct 1, 2023, due to prolonged political gridlock following last May’s general election. A new government was formed in August. REUTERS


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