The Thai Prime Minister, Srettha Thavisin, has offered a defense for the $15 billion “digital wallet” program designed to stimulate domestic spending. The digital wallet program targets Thai citizens, with a single eligibility criterion of being 16 years or older.
Its primary aim is to enhance the purchasing ability of individuals with lower incomes and, at the same time, boost the economy by distributing income within communities across the nation.
Opposing this decision, a collective statement from a group consisting of approximately 99 academics, economists, and former Bank of Thailand governors has recently emerged, calling on the government to abandon the program, contending that such a substantial expenditure to stimulate short-term consumption will lead to an increase in public debt and pose a long-term risk to Thailand’s financial stability.
The statement contends, “Ultimately, it will be the citizens who bear the burden, whether through higher taxes and/or increased prices of goods due to inflation resulting from a monetary injection.”
For individuals with limited incomes, the program that distributes cash digitally may initially appear appealing. However, when taking into account the specific conditions attached to the use of this money – it must be spent within six months on essential items like food, medications, and work-related tools at nearby businesses located within a 4km radius of their registered address – those who have to commute long distances to their workplace may encounter difficulties in fully benefiting from this financial assistance.
While the government intends to revise the program’s terms to ensure that digital cash reaches and benefits all regions of the country, many individuals are skeptical that the $15 billion initiative will ultimately favor the wealthy and large businesses, which already possess the resources and technology to facilitate transactions and provide goods.
The digital wallet program represents a significant campaign pledge by the Pheu Thai Party, and analysts argue that breaking this promise would be detrimental to their prospects in the upcoming general election.
In May of this year, the well-established political group faced its first electoral defeat when it was outperformed by the youthful and progressive party, Move Forward. Following this, Pheu Thai initially joined forces with the victorious party and opposition groups but later separated from the Move Forward-led coalition to establish a new alliance with the former ruling faction associated with the military and coup leaders.