PM doubles down on digital wallet

PM doubles down on digital wallet

Supporters of the digital wallet scheme show up at the headquarters of the Pheu Thai Party on Oct 17. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)
Supporters of the digital wallet scheme show up at the headquarters of the Pheu Thai Party on Oct 17. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin on Saturday insisted the government will not back out of its digital money handout, saying details will become clear on Friday.

Addressing the progress of the scheme, Mr Srettha said the details of the project, including how it will be funded, will all be announced at a specially arranged press conference.

"A time frame and criteria will become clear. The digital wallet scheme is important. Everyone agrees it is necessary to stimulate the economy. But we need to discuss how far the economy should be stimulated.

"As I always say, I am willing to listen to suggestions,'' said Mr Srettha who also serves as finance minister.

Asked if the government has to tread carefully with the scheme as it cannot afford to back down from it, Mr Srettha said: "I don't think of taking a step backward. I have to go ahead and do my best and act in line with the law for the benefit of people.''

He also gave assurances the Pao Tang mobile app, an open-platform digital wallet operated by Krungthai Bank, will be used to distribute the payments.

He was responding to a recommendation from the Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking (JSCCIB) that using the app for the digital wallet scheme would save both cost and time.

Moreover, the government could leverage the app to expand into social welfare programmes and other state schemes, said the JSCCIB.

Asked if the Pheu Thai-led government is betting high stakes on the policy, the prime minister said all its policies are equally important. "Let the people decide for themselves,'' he added.

Pichai Chunhavajira, an adviser to the prime minister, previously said the digital wallet was necessary to stimulate the economy but was unlikely to be implemented in February as planned.

The scheme, which is expected to be funded by the annual budget, will face a seven-month delay and is slated for September, he said.

Mr Pichai said the scope will be adjusted to address concerns from many quarters, and so the number of eligible people is estimated to be around 40 million.

The 4km radius restriction in which the digital money can be spent is also likely to be revised to cover an entire district to ensure the money is spread evenly, he said.

The government has created a committee to oversee the administration of the handout which will also mull over possible changes, such as cutting back the numbers eligible to receive the digital money, initially offered to everyone aged 16 and above, regardless of their financial status.

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