B10k plan faces war of words

B10k plan faces war of words

B500bn loan hard to justify, critics say

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin explains criteria for the government's 10,000-baht digital wallet handout during a press conference at Government House on Friday. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin explains criteria for the government's 10,000-baht digital wallet handout during a press conference at Government House on Friday. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)

A war of words between the Pheu Thai Party-led government and the main opposition Move Forward Party (MFP) over the controversial digital money handout scheme raged on Sunday, as more critics lined up to express their disagreement with the Pheu Thai's flagship policy.

MFP deputy leader Sirikanya Tansakun on Sunday responded to Adisorn Piengkes, a Pheu Thai list-MP and chief government whip who challenged her to wager her political career on the outcome of the handout scheme.

Mr Adisorn's reaction was "ridiculous", she said, and dodged critics' questions about the scheme.

She said she was still waiting for a response to her concerns, which included how the government's proposed 500-billion-baht loan bill to fund the sceheme would be justified as urgent, a prerequisite to getting the bill passed and avoiding possible legal challenges.

The previous Pheu Thai-led government's 2-trillion-baht loan bill was rejected on the ground it was not urgently needed, and Pheu Thai is well aware of that mistake, yet it is still tempted to repeat it, she said.

Ms Sirikanya's initial remarks against the scheme came on Friday after Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin announced details of its implementation.

He responded on X, saying she should stop misleading the public.

Pheu Thai on Saturday also came out to defend the scheme, saying the need to stimulate the grassroots economy was indeed considered "urgent" and crucial.

In another development, Nonarit Bisonyabut, a senior researcher at Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), which focuses on Thailand's social and economic development, expressed concern over the possibility the scheme could result in more financial risks that could jeopardise the country's credit ratings.

Currently, Thailand's public debt accounts for 60% of GDP, exceeding the maximum level recommended for good financial and budgetary discipline, he said.

In a worst-case scenario the digital wallet doesn't meet its economic stimulation target amid a new economic crisis, Thailand won't have sufficient so-called "financial bullets" to handle it, he said.

Citing his own projection of the digital wallet scheme's ability to circulate money, he said the increase in money circulation would not be effective.

"The economy is recovering well and there is no need for the government to borrow such a substantial amount of money to be injected into the economic system," he said.

Tanit Sorat, vice-chairman of the Employers' Confederation of Thai Trade and Industry, also expressed concerns about an even smaller gap between the country's level of public debt and the public debt ceiling, which is 70% of the GDP, when 500 billion baht is borrowed.

The current proportion of public debt to GDP stands at 62%, which would rise to 64% when the 500 billion baht is borrowed, he said, adding Thailand will then have to struggle to find the money to repay the debt for four years.

Five hundred billion baht is equivalent to 2.9% of GDP, while the digital wallet scheme is expected to drive the economic growth up by about 1% through household spending, Mr Tanit said.

All in all, he said, the scheme could do more harm than good, which explains why the Bank of Thailand, National Economic and Social Development Council and Council of State have all insisted they couldn't agree with this project, he said.

Acting Democrat Party leader Jurin Laksanawisit also slammed Mr Srettha for insisting on borrowing money to fund the scheme, saying the government has begun to lose credibility.

"Be warned, this could be the beginning of a road to 'credibility bankruptcy'," he said. "Whatever the government will say next, no one will ever again believe it."

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