Govt acts on rising living costs
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Govt acts on rising living costs

Cabinet reduces electricity bills

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin announces cabinet resolutions at Government House on Wednesday. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin announces cabinet resolutions at Government House on Wednesday. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)

The government is set to roll out a raft of measures designed to ease the rising cost of living and boost the economy, including lower electricity and diesel prices, a debt moratorium for farmers and small-and-medium-sized entrepreneurs (SMEs), and fortnightly salaries for government officials.

Speaking after the cabinet's first meeting, government spokesman Chai Wacharonke said Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin assigned Deputy Prime Minister and Energy Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga to devise measures to reduce electricity bills and energy prices as quickly as possible to help ease people's plight and boost the business sector's competitiveness.

Mr Srettha, who concurrently serves as Finance Minister, also instructed Deputy Finance Minister Julapun Amornvivat to set up a panel working on a debt moratorium for farmers and SMEs affected by Covid-19.

The measures must be presented for cabinet consideration within 14 days, the spokesman said.

The PM also told Mr Julapun to come up with details of the 10,000-baht digital money handout scheme and present them to cabinet swiftly, Mr Chai said.

He added the Finance Ministry will work with the Budget Bureau, the National Economic and Social Development Council and other agencies to roll out measures to stimulate the economy.

The spokesman said the cabinet also ordered the Comptroller General's Department to study measures to boost liquidity for government officials and such measures are set to take effect by Jan 1.

Government officials now will receive salaries fortnightly, instead of monthly.

Regarding the salary payment policy, Mr Srettha said: "This will specifically save junior government officials from depending on loans, because they will not have to wait so long for their salaries.''

Some public servants already have spoken out against the measures on social media, though they will have time to get their finances in order first.

Meanwhile, the planned visa-free scheme will start from Sept 25 and run until Feb 29 next year for visitors from China and Kazakhstan.

Diplomatic gesture: Japanese ambassador to Thailand, Nashida Kazuya, shakes hands with Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin at Government House yesterday. The ambassador was paying a courtesy call to congratulate Mr Srettha on becoming prime minister. (Government House photo)

The PM, Mr Chai said, also has appointed a national committee to lay down strategies on soft power, with the PM as chairman and Paetongtarn Shinawatra of Pheu Thai as deputy chairwoman.

Mr Srettha ordered state agencies to prepare for the impact of drought caused by the looming El Nino weather phenomenon.

After the meeting at Government House, Mr Srettha said the cabinet decided to reduce the power tariff from 4.45 baht per unit to 4.10 baht from this month's billing onwards. "I think the decrease is bigger than expected," the prime minister said.

The cabinet will also keep the pump price of standard diesel below 30 baht per litre from Sept 20, because diesel is important to the transport sector, he said. On Wednesday the B7 diesel price was 31.94 baht per litre in Bangkok. A means to help drivers of petrol vehicles has yet to be worked out.

Businessmen applaud

Sanan Angubolkul, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC), hailed the measures rolled out by the Srettha-led cabinet, saying they will help drive GDP to grow by 3% this year.

"The TCC's committee finds the cabinet's measures favourable, and the TCC expresses its gratitude to the government for immediately reducing the expenses and costs of entrepreneurs in accordance with an urgent proposal of the private sector during the first cabinet meeting," Mr Sanan said.

Regarding the impact of the measures, the TCC reckons the government's electricity cost reduction measures will lower expenses nationwide by 15 billion baht.

Lak Taechawanchai, vice president of Digital Council of Thailand, said the cabinet sent a good signal to promote soft power and hopefully, it will prioritise the "five F" areas -- food, film, fashion, fighting and festivals.

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