Prayut rejects SSF loan reports as 'distorted'
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has labelled reports that he wants to make the Social Security Fund (SSF) a new loan source as "distorted", insisting he only wants to find ways to make optimal use of the money in response to queries from the public.
The premier explained that he had only told officials to see what else the fund can do for people in addition to providing social and medical welfare and pension payments and stressed the new uses must comply with the law.
"So don't distort the facts," Gen Prayut told the media on Tuesday.
"I'll never spend SSF money if the law doesn't allow it."
The controversy over the suggestion followed a leaked circular issued on Nov 8 by the cabinet secretariat telling state agencies to explore possible ways to utilise the fund, which included offering loans to SSF subscribers.
However, what Gen Prayut called "studying" possibilities sparked worries that the pension pot might be affected if many of these mooted loans were defaulted on.
The prime minister said exploring new avenues to add value to the fund was a response to queries from subscribers who wondered what other benefits it could offer subscribers.
Government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat suggested that the law already prohibits officials from using the fund as a loan source unless there are exceptional circumstances.
"The Social Security Office, which oversees the fund, is only allowed to help people undergoing financial troubles indirectly," she said.
It can turn part of the money into bank deposits under an agreement with a bank that the amount must be lent to SSF members at low interest rates.
"But this approach can only be undertaken when absolutely necessary," Ms Narumon said.