Prayut shelves B2,000 handouts plan

Prayut shelves B2,000 handouts plan

A boy waits while his family inches forward in a long line to buy protective masks at a chemist operated by the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation on Monday. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)
A boy waits while his family inches forward in a long line to buy protective masks at a chemist operated by the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation on Monday. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has shelved a plan to hand out more money to low income earners in a bid to prop up a sagging economy now reeling under the added impact of the coronavirus epidemic.

Gen Prayut said on Monday the proposed 2,000 baht handout will not go into the cabinet on Tuesday, but other measures were on course for consideration by the ministers during their regular weekly meeting.

A meeting of economic ministers on Friday approved a 2,000-baht cash freebie for low-income earners, farmers and freelancers. It was part of a 100 billion baht package to fight the economic slump.

The handout was widely criticised on and off social media as a waste of money and a misguided priority at a time when people are struggling to find face masks to help shield themselves from the virus.

Among the strongest voices were public health personnel, who called a rally at the Faculty of Medicine in Khon Kaen University on Monday to protest about the government's failure to provide them with enough protective masks.

The Faculty of Medicine of Ramathibodi Hospital has posted a Facebook message asking the public to help by donating masks for use by doctors, nurses and other hospital staff.

"As a doctor, I don't think it is the duty of people to donate masks to doctors at a time when the government is busy doling out money to fight the virus," @nattaphon-oo tweeted.

The handout plan was also slammed after the government publicly asked for donations to a newly set up fund to fight Covid-19.

After cabinet ministers agreed to donate a month's worth of their salaries as the seed fund, a bank account number was made public to ask for donations.

Netizens, however, were not impressed. They questioned whether the government got its priorities straight — handing out money on the one hand while asking for donations on the other. 

People started to show money transfer slips of their donations to the fund in amounts ranging from one satang to one baht to show their discontent.

Government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat explained later the government had hoped for the private sector to donate, not members of the public. But she added: "People are not prohibited to chip in". 


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