Yet more lockdown

Yet more lockdown

As Covid cases scale new highs without any sign of slowing, the government has extended its partial lockdown for another 14 days and expanded tough restrictions to cover more provinces, up from 13 provinces to 29.

While the bitter pill measure is understandable, if regrettable, businesses are looking forward to more responsive financial assistance to help them survive and keep people in work.

The lockdown extension order was announced yesterday and takes effect tomorrow, according to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).

It does not give a precise day when the extended lockdown will be lifted, as the decision will depend on daily caseloads.

Nor is there much consideration given to whether lockdowns are the most effective tool available to slow the spread. If infections keep rising as they are, at what point do authorities step in and perhaps try something else?

Given the apparent paucity of measures adopted by the government, it is unclear when soaring cases from the pandemic are likely to ease. But what will definitely take place is severe impacts on the public and economy.

The Fiscal Policy Office (FPO) last week downgraded prospects for GDP growth this year from 2.3% forecast in April to 1.3%, due to the impact of lockdowns. The 1% drop in GDP will cost the economy almost 180 billion baht.

If the pandemic cannot be contained even after the extension of the lockdown, the economy will remain in a slump during the fourth quarter of this year and unemployment will rise.

During a recent online meeting between Gen Prayut and 40 CEOs from major corporates, various ideas to combat the spread of Covid-19 and handle the economic impact were floated.

The CEOs suggested that more aid should be given to employers whose businesses were suspended as a result of stricter Covid measures for more than 90 days.

Also, vaccinations should be offered in a timely fashion to Thai and migrant workers in labour-intensive industries, they said.

The CEOs also called for more economic stimulus packages to bolster the economy and employment.

The government has reintroduced spending stimulus measures such as the "Khon la Krueng" (half and half) co-payment scheme, "Ying Chai Ying Dai" (the more you spend, the more you get) the e-voucher cashback scheme, and cash handouts for low-income people.

However, it seems that further economic stimulus is needed due to prolong restrictions and the outbreak.

One measure proposed by the CEOs is to reintroduce the "Shop Dee Mee Kuen" (shop and pay back) programme.

The proposal concerning a package of tax incentives for shoppers is worth a look, as it would help boost local spending.

The "Shop Dee Mee Kuen scheme" was introduced for about two months last year and led to a boost of 100 billion baht in local spending.

The scheme will help businesses maintain production and thus their employment.

Still, the measure, even if is reintroduced, will not benefit all sectors equally. SMEs will reap less benefit than major corporations.

As a result, the government needs to introduce effective measures to help SMEs as well.

Integrated and wise economic measures are necessary to handle the economy for the rest of the year.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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