Finance Ministry readies phase 3 of virus welfare

Finance Ministry readies phase 3 of virus welfare

The Finance Ministry is preparing the third phase of the government's Covid-19 relief package to support people, small-and-medium enterprises and financial institutions as the country grapples with the virus crisis.

Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana said on Monday the third-phase package will be larger than the first- and second-phase packages combined to cushion the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.

Mr Uttama said the latest package will support SMEs and make credit more affordable and available. Once the crisis is over the country will emerge intact and move forward, he said.

However, the size and sources of the funding to steer aid to those affected by the virus crisis have yet to be determined, he said.

The highlight of the first phase was soft loans worth 150 billion baht to business operators while the second phase involved cash handouts to temporary employees and self-employed workers who are not covered by the social security scheme.

On Friday Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said an executive decree would be issued to allow the government to borrow an estimated 200 billion baht to implement stimulus measures with a focus on local and regional economic development.

Mr Uttama said the country has committed to maintaining fiscal discipline, so it will be able to borrow to battle the outbreak. Public debt currently stands at below 60% of GDP, he noted.

"The [country's] fiscal status is strong. We can definitely roll out the relief measures to support the economy," he said.

However, he added, the planned package will not be ready for cabinet consideration today.

On the Bank of Thailand's forecast for a 5.3% contraction in the economy this year, he said it is not known when the Covid-19 crisis will be resolved and the projection reflects the current magnitude.

Asked about the aviation industry's call for soft loans to boost liquidity, he said companies in the sector can obtain loans from the Government Savings Bank (GSB), which has set aside 150 billion baht in soft loans for the tourism industry.

Meanwhile, the number of people who registered for the cash handout scheme rose to 19.8 million as of 2pm yesterday.

The website www.เราไม่ทิ้งกัน.com ["You will never be left behind"] began accepting applications at 6pm on Saturday.

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