PM looks to bolster SMEs

PM looks to bolster SMEs

NSC mulls further cut in curfew hours

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is given an influenza vaccine at Government House. Looking on are Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, left, and several healthcare workers. (Government House photo)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is given an influenza vaccine at Government House. Looking on are Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, left, and several healthcare workers. (Government House photo)

The government has come up with fresh measures, including quotas under procurement projects to buy products and services from small- and medium-sized (SMEs) enterprises to help alleviate the hit from the Covid-19 crisis, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said.

Speaking in a TV Pool broadcast on Tuesday evening, Gen Prayut said that in recent weeks, he had personally visited a number of business associations to listen to their pandemic-related woes.

"I particularly wanted to see the ones I had never had a chance to meet personally, especially those representing smaller sized businesses, because I know that they are among those that are really suffering a lot," said Gen Prayut. "I asked them to share with me the plight of their members and their thoughts and recommendations ... My purpose is to find quick, short-term ways in which we can soften the blow of the Covid-19 crisis on their members' incomes. I got some very useful ideas."

After the meeting, Gen Prayut said he had decided to implement a raft of measures to help them.

First, he said he had directed quotas be instituted from all state procurement budgets to purchase local products from small, medium and micro-sized businesses so they can gain additional income.

This will apply to quality products that are properly certified and registered and will be done in a way that is consistent with World Trade Organization regulations, said Gen Prayut.

To make sure this happens, he said he had instructed relevant agencies to send him reports that they have fulfilled this requirement by year-end.

Gen Prayut said SMEs employ more than 14 million people and they play a very important role in the economy. While the state will do its part to help SMEs, he said he wanted large business owners to help support local SMEs too when they make buying decisions.

Also from these meetings, shopping outlets nationwide told him that they wanted to reopen as soon as possible, and that they have put in place rigorous health precautions to prevent the spread of the virus, he said.

As a result of their assurances, many shopping malls were allowed to reopen over a week ago, Gen Prayut said.

The prime minister went on to say that the travel and tourism sector had made it clear they wanted the country to open back up to tourists quickly. He said he told them that he will do so when the risks return to a manageable level.

Gen Prayut said if the country reopens to foreign travellers too quickly and they bring the virus with them, Thailand will have to go back into lockdown, which will be catastrophic.

As a result of these meetings, Gen Prayut also said that he has instructed government agencies to spend their meeting budgets on hotels and other venues to give additional income to those hard-hit sectors.

In particular, they must use officially registered hotels and meeting venues employing good hygiene standards, he said.

Gen Prayut also said he was informed that workers in some sectors were not receiving social security benefits if their businesses had closed voluntarily, although the government has fixed the problem.

Meanwhile, the cabinet endorsed an extension of the enforcement of the emergency decree for another month to the end of June as recommended by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat said on Tuesday.

National Security Council secretary-general Somsak Roongsita, who chairs a committee which considers steps for easing the lockdown, said the committee will meet today to discuss reopening more businesses. The committee will also consider a one-hour shorter curfew period, either from midnight-4am or from 11pm-3am.

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