Commerce sets 2018 priorities

Commerce sets 2018 priorities

Sontirat: Thong Fah shops to help
Sontirat: Thong Fah shops to help

The Commerce Ministry has decided that stimulating the local economy, reducing the cost of living, driving exports and stabilising farm prices are its top priorities for 2018.

Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong, who outlined the policy for 2018 yesterday, said the ministry is set to work closer with related state agencies, especially the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry, to stimulate the local economy, create added value for farm products and raise crop prices.

The two ministries will jointly develop big data for farm products, while the Industry Ministry will help develop value-added products.

Mr Sontirat said the ministry has pledged to keep down the cost of living by increasing the number of Thong Fah Pracha Rat low-cost shops in the second phase by more than 20,000 to reach more people.

More than 30,000 shops registered with the Commerce Ministry as Thong Fah Pracha Rat shops in the first phase, which started on Oct 1. The shops were initially designed to be able to expand in the second phase, distribute local products and promote small and medium-sized enterprises, particularly micro-SMEs in remote areas.

Mr Sontirat said the ministry this year will focus on stepping up installation of electronic data capture machines at Thong Fah Pracha Rat shops to accommodate the second phase, raising the number of EDC-equipped shops to 40,000 nationwide.

The cabinet on Tuesday approved 35.7 billion baht for the second phase of the welfare and subsidy scheme for the poor, aiming to help 1 million people cross the poverty line.

Some 5.3 million out of the 11.4 million recipients of the government's welfare and subsidy scheme are living below the national poverty line, earning less than 30,000 baht a year.

Last August, the cabinet approved the first phase of the aid package, worth 41.9 billion baht, for 11.7 million low-income earners -- 5 million of whom live below the poverty line.

Under the scheme, the government transfers 200-300 baht a month to each welfare smart card. Recipients earning less than 30,000 baht a year get a monthly allowance of 300 baht, while those with annual earnings of 30,000-100,000 baht receive 200 baht to buy discounted goods at Thong Fah Pracha Rat shops and other designated stores.

Each cardholder also receives 1,500 baht a month to subsidise transport and 500 baht for inter-provincial public buses, third-class trains, and local public buses and electric trains.

The second phase sees the government allocate a combined 35.7 billion baht to finance 34 projects that aim to raise the income of low-income earners.

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