GSB sees soft loans of B150bn taken out within two months

GSB sees soft loans of B150bn taken out within two months

State-owned Government Savings Bank (GSB) expects the bank's sponsored 150 billion baht in soft loans, part of efforts to help small businesses hurt by the Covid-19 outbreak, to be taken out within two months.

Based on previous soft-loan schemes, the entire amount should be doled out within two months, said Chatchai Payuhanaveechai, GSB president and chief executive.

"I would like commercial banks to accelerate soft loans and ease some loan approval criteria such as loan applicants' income and profit requirements because the current situation is unusual," he said. "Tough criteria would block some small business operators from accessing the loans, as the government ordered some businesses to close, resulting in lower income."

If commercial banks speed up disbursing soft loans, small businesses are likelier to survive and retain employees for the next 3-6 months, Mr Chatchai said.

The soft loans are part of the government's 400 billion baht in relief measures for the first phase. Under the scheme, GSB will lend to commercial banks at a 0.01% rate, with those banks lending at up to 2% per year for two years. Each borrower can take out a loan of no more than 20 million baht.

Of the total 150 billion baht in lending, 135 billion baht will be lent via 20 banks and 15 billion baht will be directly extended by the GSB to borrowers at the same rate of 2%.

The soft loans are available from now until Dec 30, 2020.

Small businesses are the target of the scheme. Based on previous soft-loan schemes that averaged 8-9 million baht per borrower, some 15,000 borrowers will apply for the soft loans, Mr Chatchai said.

Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana said the government's measures to allow business operators to delay payments for corporate income tax, value-added tax, excise tax and specific business tax, as well as temporarily waive import duties for products used for virus protection and treatment, will help operators keep 200 billion baht worth of money on hand.

For the 5,000-baht cash giveaway to 3 million temporary employees, contract employees and self-employed individuals, the government allocated 50 billion baht from the central budget to fund the cash handout.

Lavaron Sangsnit, director-general of the Fiscal Policy Office (FPO), said informal workers who are covered by the social security system under Sections 39 and 40 of the Social Security Act will also be entitled to the 5,000-baht cash handout.

The FPO will set up a checklist for those who sign up for the cash giveaway at a designated website, which will be rolled out on Saturday. Artificial intelligence will be used to screen eligibility for the assistance.

The main criteria for the handout are that recipients must be affected by the government's measures to prevent Covid-19 spread and they must not be regular workers covered by the Social Security Act's Section 33.

They must be aged 18 to 60, Mr Lavaron said.

If their request is rejected, registrants can appeal through the website and the FPO will reconsider their qualifications.

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