Following weeks of protests against rising fuel and living costs, the government has announced a 10-point plan to alleviate the impact of increases in the cost of fuel arising from Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and will also suspend half of farmers' multimillion baht debt repayments.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said during a press conference after the weekly cabinet meeting on Tuesday that the volatility of energy prices caused by the invasion has affected the cost of production and transportation of goods and services, causing the cost of living to rise, especially for low-income earners and labourers.
After evaluating the Russia-Ukraine situation, authorities believe the conflict might not end soon, he said.
“I have ordered concerned agencies to brainstorm ways to provide urgent help beyond the measures already issued and in use now," the prime minister said. "The new measures, at least 10, are expected to last from May until July,’’ said the prime minister.
The new measures are as follows:
-Increase the state subsidy for cooking gas for 3.6 million state welfare cardholders from 45 baht to 100 baht a month;
-Provide one 100-baht discount per month to 5,500 vendors and hawkers who hold state welfare cards;
-Reduce gasohol costs by 250 baht per month for 157,000 working motorcycle drivers registered with the Department of Land Transport. The department will regulate service prices so people who use motorcycle taxi services will pay the same prices;
-Maintain the retail price of NGV at 15.59 baht per kilogramme;
-Help metered taxi drivers under the Lom Hai Jai Diow Gun (Breathe Together) project to buy natural gas for 13.62 baht per kilogramme;
-Help those who use less than 300 units of electricity per month by reducing the fuel tariff by 22 satang per unit from May to August;
-Freeze the retail price of diesel at 30 baht per litre until the end of April. After that the government will subsidise half of any further increases;
-Control the price of cooking gas between April and June by using the Oil Fund to help reduce the impact of any hikes;
-Reduce the rate of social security contributions for both employers and employees under Section 33 of the Social Security Act from 5% to 1% to give employees more spending power and employers more liquidity to run their businesses;
-Reduce the social security contribution rate for those insured under Section 39 of the Act from 9% to 1.9%, and for those insured under Section 40 to an amount ranging from 42 to 180 baht per month.
The cabinet also agreed to suspend half the 9.3 billion baht debt that thousands of farmers owe to state banks, with the rest to be restructured within 15 years, Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit said in a statement.
Gen Prayut said he had ordered the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and the Ministry of Commerce to issue urgent measures to help farmers before the harvesting season by ensuring the supply of raw materials. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been asked to coordinate with other countries to import sufficient production inputs.
According to the press release, the prime minister vowed to move ahead with the country’s rehabilitation plan in the short, medium and long terms, including creating trade and investment opportunities with other countries and reopening the country to tourism.