Finance Ministry mulls higher budget for handout
Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana has affirmed that the Finance Ministry stands ready to seek cabinet approval for a higher budget if the number of self-employed workers and temporary employees who sign up for the 5,000-baht cash handout exceeds 3 million.
The government has budgeted 50 billion baht to allocate 5,000 baht per month for three months to 3 million virus-affected temporary employees and self-employed workers, he said.
For registration, a website at raomaithingkun.com (for "Nobody will be left behind" in Thai) will be launched on March 28 from 6pm.
Everyone who meets the requirements will receive the cash giveaway within seven business days at the earliest, Mr Uttama said.
The cash handout is part of the relief package's second phase for those affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha earlier this week announced that the country would be under a state of emergency until April 30 in its battle to stop the pandemic.
The Bank of Thailand on Wednesday lowered its forecast for the economy this year to a 5.3% contraction from 2.8% growth predicted in December.
If the projection holds true, the country's economic downturn will be worse than in the global financial crisis of 2008-09.
Mr Uttama said he was not surprised by the central bank's latest economic forecast, saying it underscored the severity of the situation.
The Budget Bureau is exploring funding sources for a new stimulus package in the period ahead, while the Finance Ministry can adopt an emergency decree on borrowing, he said.
Lavaron Sangsnit, director-general of the Fiscal Policy Office, said those who qualify for the cash giveaway are informal workers who are not covered by the Social Security Act's Section 33 and have been ravaged by the Covid-19 epidemic.
They must be age 18 or older.
Apart from the government's cash handout to informal workers, under Section 33 the Social Security Fund also offers subsidies to its members who have lost their jobs due to the outbreak.
According to the registration process, registrants are required to fill in personal information such as career and impact from the coronavirus.
To screen for those who are qualified to receive the cash handout, the Finance Ministry will use artificial intelligence and information from other state agencies, Mr Lavaron said.
Krungthai Bank president Payong Srivanich said registrants who qualify will receive cash assistance through PromptPay.
The raomaithingkun.com website is capable of processing 58,000 transactions per second, so registrants should sign up for assistance through the website to avoid going to the bank's branches and thus limit the virus spread, he said.