Budget limits bump against populist sops

Budget limits bump against populist sops

Targets not specified by poll campaigns

A source in the FPO believes the Finance Ministry needs to propose to Minister Uttama Savanayana the government prioritise helping the underserved segments of society with limited budget means.
A source in the FPO believes the Finance Ministry needs to propose to Minister Uttama Savanayana the government prioritise helping the underserved segments of society with limited budget means.

Recipients of the government's populist campaign promises could be restricted to state welfare smartcard holders because of budget constraints, says a source at the Finance Ministry's think tank who requested anonymity.

Populist campaign promises, particularly for pregnant women, did not specify target recipients and the budget for such policies is tight, so the Finance Ministry needs to propose to Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana to prioritise the underserved segments, the source said.

State welfare smartcard holders are below the poverty line and most deserve to benefit from the government's campaign handouts, said a source at the Fiscal Policy Office (FPO).

According to the Palang Pracharat Party's election pledges, it will give a 3,000-baht monthly allowance for nine months to pregnant women, a 10,000-baht allowance for births, and a child allowance of 2,000 baht a month for newborn children until six years of age, constituting 181,000 baht per child.

Another source at the Finance Ministry recently said the ministry is looking to scale down the new government's populist campaign promises this year, given the constraints of the available budget and a delay in the fiscal 2020 budget process.

Dechapiwat Na Songkhla, director of the Budget Bureau, has said if the long-awaited 2020 budget expenditure framework of 3.2 trillion baht, scheduled to seek the cabinet's nod on Aug 6, is not changed, a mere 70-80 billion baht will be left over for the government to make good on election promises.

The source at the FPO said the additional allowances provided by the previous government to state welfare recipients could be renewed after they lapse to alleviate low income-earners' financial burden during the weak economy.

These include a 10-month subsidy for welfare smartcard holders of 100 baht a month for tap water bills and 230 baht a month for electric bills, which is due to expire in September; a one-off cash handout of 500 baht given in December last year; a one-time 1,000-baht allowance to the elderly aged 65 or older paid in December 2018; and a 10-month 400-baht-a-month allowance for rent to those 60 and older, which will expire in September.

The government raised the flat rate for the monthly living allowance to state welfare recipients to 500 baht from 200-300 baht.

The extra living allowance already lapsed in June.

The source said funding for state welfare to low-income earners comes from the Pracharat Fund, with an available budget after the end of September of 10 billion baht.

Mr Uttama recently said the government's fiscal position is the administration's focus as it is a key factor in pushing public policies.

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