Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has made an about-turn, saying the government will hand out the 5,000-baht aid for three months as planned earlier.
The premier apologised on Thursday for the “miscommunication” on the previous day. On Wednesday he said the government would have money for only a month’s worth of the handout, leading to an uproar among applicants.
On Thursday, he said the government would make sure the aid was paid for three months.
“If the situation improves after that period, there’s no need for the government to find more money since people could work normally.
“But if the situation drags on, we will have to consider finding more money.”
He added he did not mean the government would pay for only one month. “I was just trying to explain how we plan to spend the [stimulus] funds. I don’t mean [people] will not receive the aid in full or [the government] won’t pay.”
Meanwhile, the government is considering relief measures for workers under the Social Security Fund, as well as independent workers and farmers.
Since there were several categories of farmers, he said there had to be a screening process.
He pointed out the number of new virus cases had decreased for a week but the lockdown would be eased gradually or new cases will explode again.
“Those businesses to be allowed to open must cooperate. If everyone demands a blanket lift, who would be responsible if the number of cases increases?”
He pleaded with all to have confidence in him, the Finance Ministry and the government.
“Everyone is doing his best. Some measures are easy [to implement] while others are difficult. Some can be done quickly while others take time, for which I apologise. We have to be very cautious about these measures since state funds are involved and a probe may be launched later. I don’t want problems in the future.”
The Finance Ministry opened the registration for the aid on March 26 without setting the deadline. At the time, it estimated 3 million self-employed and workers affected by the virus measures would be qualified.
When the cabinet approved the 1.9-trillion baht third stimulus package on April 7, the payout period was extended to six months, prompting criticism the programme should be extended to cover more people than the 9 million estimated by the government at the time.
But the Finance Ministry said the next day the handout period would be at least three months and the six-month payment period was not guaranteed.
The screening is ongoing but as of Tuesday, 27 million people registered, 4.78 million were disqualified and 2.4 million already received the money.
Due to the complications of the screening process which have held back the handout, some academics and politicians have suggested the handouts should be given to all people instead of select groups.