Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has brushed aside critics of the government's planned 10,000-baht digital wallet handout scheme, saying only a small number of people have spoken out against it.
He said the government will press ahead with the scheme, set for all Thai citizens over 16 years old, despite the criticism.
Mr Srettha was speaking as he met residents in a village in Yasothon's Kham Khuen Kaeo district, where he observed efforts to deal with flooding caused by the bursting banks along the Chi River.
Later he visited Phra Khru Methi Thampundit, chief of the ecclesiastical district of Kham Khuen Kaeo.
The monk asked about the digital wallet scheme, and the prime minister responded by saying: "The government is pushing for it. Some people are opposing it, but only a few of them. [The scheme] is important to people. We must go ahead."
The Srettha government is determined to push ahead with the digital wallet scheme for 56 million people. The scheme is expected to begin on Feb 1.
The budget is estimated to be 560 billion baht, but the source of funding has yet to be revealed.
Thirachai Phuvanatnaranubala, a former finance minister, said foreign investors do not have confidence in the government's economic policy, especially the digital wallet scheme, which will require a substantial sum of money.
Foreign investors believe the government will eventually have to seek loans to finance the programme, a move that will adversely affect the country's financial standing and drive up public debt, he said.
"The government should back down or reduce the scale of the handout by giving the money to specific groups," Mr Thirachai said. "If the government insists on pressing ahead with it, it must brace for a storm of economic impacts."
Recently, 99 economic experts urged the administration to call off its digital wallet plan.
In a statement signed by former Bank of Thailand governors Veerathai Santiprabhob and Tarisa Watanagase, as well as scholars, researchers and professors in economics, the experts argued the economy is already undergoing a phase of recovery, noting many analysts expect to see a 2.8% growth this year and 3.5% in 2024.
That is a sign that such handouts, which could lead to higher inflation and raised interest rates, are not needed, they said.
"It is unnecessary for the government to boost personal consumption," the statement said. "Rather, it should improve the public sector's capacity for investment and exports."