Ministers to push help for SMEs
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Ministers to push help for SMEs

Economic cabinet set for Friday meeting

A full meeting of economic ministers will be held on Friday to discuss ways to revitalise the economy battered by Covid-19, with measures to help more than 3 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) high on the agenda, a senior government official said.

Kobsak: Paints bleak picture

Kobsak Pootrakool, deputy secretary-general to the prime minister for political affairs, said on Tuesday that the economic cabinet meeting is very important as economic ministers from all coalition parties will attend the meeting to look at ideas on how to address the economic woes caused by Covid-19.

The full meeting will be the first since March following the outbreak of the virus.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered the economic cabinet to meet every two weeks in order to decided on measures to rehabilitate the economy during the next six to 12 months.

Mr Kobsak said on Tuesday that economic figures in May showed exports declined to minus 22% while the industrial manufacturing sector shrank to minus 20%. Production and investment were also down to minus 10%. This has had a severe impact on the economy, he said.

"The government and the private sector must hold talks to find solutions and all involved should be allowed to take part," Mr Kobsak said.

The ruling Palang Pracharath Party is in charge of only four economy-related ministries -- the Finance Ministry, the Energy Ministry, the Industry Ministry and the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation.

Other economy-related ministries which are controlled by coalition parties include the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry, the Commerce Ministry, the Labour Ministry, and the Tourism and Sport Ministry.

These ministries make up the economic cabinet and their collaboration will play a key role in steering the economy forward, Mr Kobsak said.

High on the agenda of Friday's meeting will be the progress of the existing aid scheme for SMEs as many SMEs have complained that they have yet to access the soft loan scheme implemented by the Bank of Thailand, Mr Kobsak said.

"The economic cabinet meeting will discuss ways to help more than 3 million SMEs to access enough funding so they can continue operating and maintain employment,'' he said.

"The meeting will also consider amending regulations on extending soft loans to help some businesses which seek a loan of more than 500 million. Setting up an SME fund to help micro enterprises will also be on the agenda," Mr Kobsak said.

"The economic cabinet meeting with the prime minister as chairman will be for everyone to help move the economy forward. It will address problems which require collaboration from all ministries involved," Mr Kobsak said.

The next economic cabinet meeting scheduled for July 24 will discuss measures to rehabilitate the tourism industry after the country lost about 40 million foreign tourists during the pandemic, he said.

The Bank of Thailand began accepting applications for the 500-billion-baht soft loan scheme for SMEs affected by the coronavirus crisis on April 27.

The soft loans aim to help ease SMEs' suffering and boost their liquidity, enabling them to pay for necessary expenses, particularly wages.

The 500-billion-baht soft loan scheme is part of the third phase of relief measures. Under the two-year loan scheme, the central bank will charge commercial banks 0.01% interest to re-lend to SMEs with a maximum credit line of 500 million baht at 2%.

The government will absorb interest costs for six months for SMEs that receive soft loans.

SMEs eligible for the measure must also operate domestically, be non-listed companies and still have been servicing debt or making late payments within 90 days of the end of 2019.

Aside from the soft loans, all SMEs with a credit line of up to 100 million baht will be automatically offered a six-month grace period on principal and interest to alleviate the impact on smaller SMEs, which are an important source of employment.

Meanwhile, Ong-art Klampaibul, deputy leader of the Democrat Party which is a coalition partner, said that the cabinet will meet today to consider approval of budget allocations worth 80 billion baht for the first batch of projects proposed under the Finance Ministry's Covid-19 economic recovery spending plan worth 400 billion baht.

He urged the cabinet to make sure that those projects which have been scrutinised by a screening committee will bring maximum benefits to the public by creating jobs and distributing income directly to the people.

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