Businesses seek financial relief
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Businesses seek financial relief

Measures 'a must' to withstand new curbs

A jewellery vendor arranges wares at a stall surrounded by empty shops in Siam Square on Sunday. (AFP photo)
A jewellery vendor arranges wares at a stall surrounded by empty shops in Siam Square on Sunday. (AFP photo)

Business operators are calling for financial relief measures, including a debt moratorium and new loans with relaxed conditions, to help small and medium enterprises cope with Covid-19.

The request was made ahead of Monday's meeting of the government's economic team called by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Members of the team are expected to consider an economic relief package for businesses affected by the partial Covid-19 lockdown and curfew imposed for at least 14 days starting today.

Expected to be included is financial compensation for people and businesses who stand to lose income during this period.

Some businesses have complained they are being asked to shut down temporarily when relief is not yet at hand.

The Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC) asked the government to consider relaxing lending regulations so financial institutions can examine other factors, not only credit information from the National Credit Bureau, when considering a loan application, said Sanan Angubolkul, chairman of the TCC.

Mr Sanan was speaking after a virtual meeting with Supattanapong Punmeechaow, Deputy Prime Minister and Energy Minister, and the Finance Ministry, the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Council, the Bank of Thailand, and the Office of the SMEs Promotion.

Aside from better access to financial resources, these business operators also need additional financial measures, including a debt moratorium, to help ease the burden of repaying current debts, said Mr Sanan.

He was citing opinions compiled from previous discussions with entrepreneurs, financial institutions and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

As for the government's current stimulus measures, the TCC basically agrees with the idea of injecting money into the economic system, he said.

However, some adjustments to these measures may be needed to improve their efficiency.

In phase 3 of the Khon La Khrueng ("Half-Half") co-payment scheme, the government should double the maximum subsidy to 6,000 baht per person, from 3,000 baht now.

Meanwhile, to further help things along, the complicated terms and conditions of the Ying Chai Ying Dai e-voucher cashback scheme should be removed, Mr Sanan said.

The cashback scheme should instead be transformed into a project similar to the Shop Dee Mee Khuen tax deduction programme.

This offers a tax deduction for individual taxpayers of up to 30,000 baht when purchasing goods or services, he said.

The TCC also called for a digital vaccine passport programme that would help the government's plan to expand its tourism reopening scheme to cover other tourist destinations.

This follows the launch of a pilot programme in Phuket earlier this month, he said.

Mr Supattanapong agreed with the digital vaccine passport proposal and immediately assigned Tossaporn Sirisamphan, the chief adviser to the prime minister, to seek further discussions on the idea.

Meanwhile, the Medical Device Control Division, which is under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), will today propose that the FDA and Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul approve a plan to make Covid-19 rapid test kits available over the counter, a source said.

Costing between 300–400 baht each, these kits would help improve public access to tests as many people are still waiting in long queues to be tested, including some overnight stays in front of a city temple.

The TCC also urged the government to make rapid Covid-19 test kits available at an affordable price so consumers can test themselves, Mr Sanan said.

Better access to Covid-19 tests would benefit the government's outbreak containment effort, as infected people would be promptly separated from non-infected ones for better safety and treatment, he said.

"We need to speed up the containment of the outbreak in Bangkok, the country's economic centre and an important [place] in the government's country reopening plan," Mr Sanan said.

The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) yesterday recorded 9,539 new Covid-19 infections and 86 deaths.

The CCSA is reportedly monitoring a total of 127 clusters of infections in Bangkok.

Of the 127 clusters, one was recently identified as a community in Ratchathewi district at where 70 new infections had been detected, said Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman for the CCSA.

As of Saturday, 93,284 Covid-19 vaccine doses were administered, bringing the total to 12.4 million doses, he said.

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