PM says THAI plan not yet on cabinet agenda

PM says THAI plan not yet on cabinet agenda

Thai Airways International Plc's rehabilitation plan has not yet been forwarded to the cabinet, says Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha after the weekly cabinet meeting on Tuesday. (Bangkok Post photo)
Thai Airways International Plc's rehabilitation plan has not yet been forwarded to the cabinet, says Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha after the weekly cabinet meeting on Tuesday. (Bangkok Post photo)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha says the rehabilitation plan of the loss-ridden Thai Airways International Plc (THAI) has yet to be completed and forwarded to the cabinet.

The future of THAI is widely watched after reports the flagship carrier would need as much as 134 billion baht from the government to stay afloat.

Gen Prayut's comments came after some news outlets reported on Tuesday the cabinet had discussed THAI's future at the meeting and all but two cabinet ministers were of the opinion it should be allowed to go under. The pair who believed it should be bailed out were Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak and Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana.  

Gen Prayut did not comment on the news but said concerned agencies should not talk too much to reporters about the issue.

He added the national carrier must have an effective rehabilitation plan, which involved several laws.

He wanted THAI staff and the national carrier’s workers union to cooperate with the plan or the process could not go ahead. "[If the plan fails] there would be no jobs, no workers or no wages to pay. This would be a total flop," he said Gen Prayut.

He added he did not want to see the airline end up like this so cooperation from all sides was needed.

The State Enterprise Policy Committee has already submitted the restructuring proposal which would be forwarded to the Transport Ministry for consideration. However, it will have to be scrunitised more before being forwarded to the cabinet for approval, said the prime minister.

He stressed that once the plan was done, everyone had to stick to it. “If you don’t help one another, who will come to help?  Your cooperation is needed. I have no grudges against anyone and have no vested interest in the airline,’’ said the prime minister.

Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob said THAI must submit a rehabilitation plan by the end of May if it wants the government to consider a rescue package.

“If [the plan] is not finished in May, then we cannot proceed,” Mr Saksayam told reporters, adding that the proposal must address all of the 23 risk areas highlighted by the airline, and present a clear strategy for handling the new coronavirus, growing revenue, and managing expenses.

The airline, which booked losses of 12.04 billion baht in 2019, last week asked the Stock Exchange of Thailand to allow it to delay submission of its January-March financial statements until August, citing difficulty in gathering information due to the pandemic.

“Oppose the use of taxpayer money to rescue Thai Airways endlessly, especially without a clear rehabilitation plan,” student activist, Tanawat Wongchai, posted on Twitter.

“Use the money to develop education, Thais will benefit. But use the money to rescue Thai Airways when people are suffering, what do Thai people get?” Tanawat said in a post, which was retweeted 8,100 times.

“The [THAI] plan needs to be clear because the money is from public taxes … especially when the country needs to use budget for managing the virus and assisting the public,” the transport minister said.

The Public Debt Management Office is poised to guarantee a 54-billion-baht short-term loan for THAI for use as working capital if the cabinet approves its rehab plan.

THAI is buckling under 240 billion baht in debt. The 54-billion-baht liquidity boost it is seeking will be enough to keep it afloat for only five months. An 80-billion-baht capital increase is also needed after that.

Its main creditors, however, are state-owned Krungthai Bank and Government Savings Bank. Its debt is also held by dozens of savings cooperatives.

Some experts and politicians, including Korn Chatikavanij, leader of Kla Party, advocated the idea of allowing the airline to file for bankruptcy so creditors, shareholders and management must first take responsibility in line with common debt restructuring practices before taxpayers' money is injected into it.  

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