Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Wednesday gave the green light to financial aid handouts to ease the plight of employees under the social security system. The scheme will cost the government about 40 billion baht.
The beneficiaries will be about nine million employees of private firms who are covered by Section 33 of the Social Security Act (SSA). Those under Section 33 have been left out of the government's Covid-19 relief packages ever since the pandemic hit the country early last year.
Each employee is expected to receive a weekly payment of 1,000 baht starting next month up to a maximum payout of 3,500-4,500 baht. The relief package is expected to go to the cabinet for approval next week.
Gen Prayut wrote on his Facebook page on Wednesday that he had called a meeting of various agencies to discuss relief measures for employees insured under Section 33 whose companies had been battered by Covid-19.
"I agreed in principle to the aid package for the insured. The matter will go swiftly to the cabinet for consideration," he posted.
The meeting had also discussed incentives for domestic and foreign investors, plans to revamp the post-pandemic economy and measures to ease business operations, said the PM.
"We will not leave anyone behind," Gen Prayut wrote. "At the same time, we are determined to look ahead and set the direction for the post-Covid economy."
Speaking after the meeting, Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin said details of the relief package would be finalised tomorrow before being presented for cabinet approval next week at the earliest.
Mr Suchart said the prime minister had given it his approval and that about 40 billion baht would be needed to finance it.
To qualify for help, an employee must be a Thai national aged at least 18 who is insured under Section 33 and whose bank deposits do not exceed 500,000 baht.
About nine million people are expected to be eligible for the aid, the minister said, adding that each recipient was expected to get between 3,500 and 4,500 baht, although the exact amount of money would be decided tomorrow.
Applicants will be required to register for the cash and the money will be transferred through the Pao Tang app's G-wallet, similar to procedures under the recent Rao Chana scheme.
The government approved the 210-billion-baht "Rao Chana" (We Win) financial aid scheme on Jan 19. Under it, the government provides 7,000 baht per person over two months to a total of 31 million people affected by the pandemic.
That scheme does not, however, cover social security subscribers, government officials or state enterprise employees.
Mr Suchart said while there were actually about 11 million employees covered by Section 33, it was necessary to lay down the criteria for anyone who might qualify for aid.
"The government wants to help all 11 million employees covered by Section 33, but it is necessary to set criteria for those who are eligible. The only condition is that those with bank deposits exceeding 500,000 baht will be excluded as proposed by the Labour Ministry," Mr Suchart said.
The ministry did not stipulate an annual salary of 300,000 baht as disqualifying anyone in order to avoid causing disunity among employees working at the same company, he added.
The minister also urged those with bank deposits exceeding 500,000 baht to sacrifice their own desires for those who have less.
He also pointed out that the 40 billion budge for the the scheme would be drawn from the 1-trillion-baht emergency loan.
Asked exactly how much people could expect to receive, Mr Suchart said that was still to be worked out but weekly payments of 1,000 baht would likely start next month.
Mr Suchart said Gen Prayut had also instructed him to look into the possibility of taking money from the Social Security Fund and giving it out as "soft" loans with a low annual interest of 2% to employees affected by the pandemic.
Meanwhile, about 30 members of the Labour Network for People's Rights gathered in front of parliament on Wednesday and called on the government to give more money -- 5,000 baht -- to Section 33 workers and employees over a period of three months.
The group said it had submitted a letter with its demands to the prime minister and the labour minister on Jan 26 but claimed the matter was not even discussed at Tuesday's cabinet meeting.