Meeting called off over discrepancy

Meeting called off over discrepancy

Uttama Savanayana, Thailand's finance minister, listens during a Bloomberg Television interview in Bangkok, Thailand, on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. Thailand's government is ready to take further action to support an economy growing at its slowest pace in nearly five years, and sees room for further interest-rate cuts, the finance minister said. Photographer: Nicolas Axelrod/Bloomberg
Uttama Savanayana, Thailand's finance minister, listens during a Bloomberg Television interview in Bangkok, Thailand, on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. Thailand's government is ready to take further action to support an economy growing at its slowest pace in nearly five years, and sees room for further interest-rate cuts, the finance minister said. Photographer: Nicolas Axelrod/Bloomberg

A planned cash handout to assist farmers has been delayed after a meeting chaired by Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana to discuss the issue yesterday was cancelled because of a discrepancy in registration information, says a source at the Finance Ministry.

The meeting's cancellation causes a delay in financial assistance that was to seek cabinet approval today, the source said, adding that a new meeting has not been scheduled yet.

Information about the number of registered farm households still differs in the range of 8 million to 12 million among state agencies, so the Finance Ministry cannot set how many farmers are eligible for the cash giveaway and the budget to be allocated for the financial aid.

According to the agenda, either a one-time or monthly payment of 5,000 baht per farm household for three months was to be discussed at yesterday's meeting.

Mr Uttama recently said the proposed cash handout to eligible farmers was one among several relief measures to be funded by the government's 1-trillion-baht emergency loan scheme.

Such assistance would be directly transferred to farmers through the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives because up to 7 million farmers are the state-backed farm bank's customers.

The cabinet this month approved the third batch of relief measures, which include enacting a royal decree to let the government borrow 1 trillion baht, of which 600 billion baht will go to health-related plans, financial aid to those whose jobs and businesses have been upended by the outbreak, and farmers.

The remaining 400 billion baht will go towards economic and social rehabilitation through projects aimed at creating jobs, strengthening communities and building infrastructure.

The planned cash handout to farmers is in line with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's policy to provide assistance across segments to soften the blow from the coronavirus pandemic and the government's measures to close some businesses to contain the viral spread.

The government aims to offer financial aid to all categories of agriculture, including rice farmers, fruit and flower growers, fisheries and livestock farmers.

The Bank of Thailand recently forecast the country's economy to shrink by 5.3% this year, the first contraction since the 2008 global financial crisis, and such a slump is expected to be seen every quarter this year, with the nadir in the second quarter.

The forecast assumes that the contagion will be contained in the second quarter and there will be no foreign tourist arrivals for three months through June because of lockdown measures globally to control movement.


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