Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin insists he has never had any thought about dismissing Bank of Thailand governor Sethaput Suthiwartharueput, who recently made some pointed suggestions about the government’s flagship 10,000-baht digital wallet scheme.
Mr Srettha, who is also the finance minister, issued the denial during a media interview in New York on Wednesday.
“It’s very funny. I have never had such an idea and I am not sure how such news came out,” the prime minister said. “I have met the central bank governor three times since I entered politics.
“Before I assumed the prime minister’s post, the governor visited the Pheu Thai Party headquarters to discuss the digital wallet policy. He gave suggestions and I took them for use. I later met him at the Finance Ministry on the day our policy was delivered.
“Some people said the prime minister has no right to dismiss the Bank of Thailand governor. I myself have never had any thought of doing so. … We hold no grudges against each other. I respect and treat him with honour. We respect each other.”
Earlier, rumours had spread on social media that Mr Sethaput’s job was in danger after he made remarks seen by some as critical of the digital wallet programme, which Mr Srettha believes will play a major role in spurring consumption and reviving the economy.
The government intends to give 10,000 baht in digital money to every Thai national over age 16, regardless of their economic status, at an estimated cost of 560 billion baht.
On Sept 14, Mr Sethaput said the central bank was waiting for clearer policy statements before assessing the impact of the scheme. He added that the central bank does not support digital assets as a means of payment.
He also expressed the opinion that targeting the distribution at people who really need the money might be more effective.
“All Thai citizens do not need a 10,000-baht cash handout based on necessity. If the scheme is allocated to a targeted segment, it would be easier on the fiscal budget,” said the governor.