NBTC allots B1bn for health fight

NBTC allots B1bn for health fight

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) on Wednesday agreed to set aside 1 billion baht from its budget to support hospitals and public health agencies in combating the coronavirus outbreak.

The sum will be drawn from its fiscal 2020 budget and Broadcasting and Telecommunications Research Fund (BTRF).

Hospitals and public health agencies have been allowed to submit their request for assistance with the NBTC.

Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the NBTC, said the money could help establish field hospitals to handle Covid-19 patients as well as the procurement of equipment, including sanitary masks and testing tools.

Other uses include helping public health agencies and hospitals develop communication apps for people who cannot visit hospitals for checkups when the emergency decree comes into force, he said.

Mr Takorn said the money is only for tasks involved with the Covid-19 outbreak, meaning hospitals receiving the assistance cannot spend it on other purposes.

"We cut our budget for overseas study trips, travel expenses for management and the board, as well as planned seminars," said Mr Takorn.

The NBTC's move could set a precedent for other state enterprises and corporations to follow by earmarking money from budgets deemed unnecessary to help those in dire need, he said.

"We cannot allow public suffering to go on for long," said Mr Takorn.

The NBTC earlier planned to provide mobile users with 10 free gigabytes of data usage per subscriber per month until the end of June to assist people in working from home following the outbreak.

For fixed broadband service, existing household broadband subscribers would be supported in using the better capacity package without additional charges, though details of it have yet to be divulged.

The plan, however, was not tabled at the cabinet meeting on Tuesday as expected.

Mr Takorn said the NBTC office serves as an independent agency under the constitution and that such approaches must wait for a government signal.

The plan involves state coffers, with the budget from 5G spectrum licence payment and Universal Service Obligation fees.

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