Extra cash available to fund handouts

Extra cash available to fund handouts

Ministry says budget can be shifted over

Customers maintain social distance while waiting to receive cash handouts at Krungthai Bank. The Finance Ministry says an additional 400 billion baht is available for the scheme if needed. (Photo by Varuth Hirunyatheb)
Customers maintain social distance while waiting to receive cash handouts at Krungthai Bank. The Finance Ministry says an additional 400 billion baht is available for the scheme if needed. (Photo by Varuth Hirunyatheb)

The government says it can reallocate 400 billion baht under the 1-trillion-baht borrowing plan to the 5,000-baht cash handout scheme in the event that the 550-billion-baht budget is inadequate.

The Finance Ministry can seek cabinet approval to redirect the 400 billion baht to the cash giveaway scheme if needed, said Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana.

He said the 1-trillion-baht borrowing plan is considered sufficient to help virus-hit people, but the Social Development and Human Security Ministry is conducting a survey to see if other groups affected by the coronavirus crisis deserve financial aid.

Under the 1-trillion-baht royal decree on borrowing, 550 billion baht has gone towards financial aid for affected informal workers and farmers, 45 billion baht to healthcare-related expenditure and 400 billion baht to economic and social rehabilitation through projects aimed at creating jobs, strengthening communities and building infrastructure.

For the helicopter money to farmers, the initial plan is to hand out money to individuals instead of households, the finance minister said. The Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry is updating the number of farm households.

The Finance Ministry initially estimated 200 billion baht for the cash giveaway. Based on the National Statistical Office's population data, there are 44 million working-age people, of whom 38 million are working. Removing 2 million civil servants, 11 million covered by the Social Security Fund's Section 33 and 17 million farmers who are recipients of other assistance schemes, an estimated 8 million are eligible for the cash handout.

The cabinet recently approved raising the number of recipients of 5,000 baht per month for three months to 14 million from 9 million, bringing the budget to 210 billion baht.

Mr Uttama said the full 150 billion baht in soft loans sponsored by Government Savings Bank (GSB) has been fully approved for SME applicants.

State-owned GSB charged commercial banks 0.1% interest and the latter re-lent to SMEs at 2%. Each applicant was eligible to seek soft loans worth up to 20 million baht.

The entire 60 billion baht in low-rate loans extended by GSB and the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives is already approved for individual applicants, Mr Uttama said.

He said the Bank of Thailand-sponsored 500 billion baht in soft loans is to be ready on May 8.

On airlines' requests for financial assistance, Mr Uttama said the Fiscal Policy Office has been asked to seek ways to help them and the aid may extend beyond soft loans.


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