Govt says loan bill not with council

Govt says loan bill not with council

DPM apologises as wallet plan stalls

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin clarifies the digital wallet scheme at Government House on Nov 10. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin clarifies the digital wallet scheme at Government House on Nov 10. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)

The government has apologised to the Council of State, its legal arm, for putting the agency on the spot over the digital wallet loan bill.

Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai confirmed on Friday that the proposed bill for the loan to finance the 500-billion-baht digital money handout scheme has not reached the council for legal scrutiny.

He was countering news reports the bill was being held up in the council, which exposed council secretary-general Prakorn Nilprapun to criticism.

On Friday, Mr Phumtham said the bill had not reached the council yet. "I do have to apologise to the council for the remark that I made earlier, which led to a misunderstanding," he said.

Deputy Finance Minister Julapun Amornvivat also confirmed the bill had not left the Finance Ministry. He expected any uncertainty to be cleared up next week.

Mr Phumtham, meanwhile, said the misunderstanding stemmed from a recent meeting to discuss the wallet policy with a member of the council in attendance.

The council representative did not object to the bill and offered to look into its legality to reassure sceptics. The meeting agreed with the council taking care of the vetting.

"What I meant in a [media] interview was for the council to examine legal aspects of the bill, to which the meeting agreed.

But it should by no means be construed that the vetting has been taken up and formally begun.

Mr Phumtham stressed it was vital for the bill to proceed through proper channels and backed by the law.

"If we want the loan bill cleared of all doubts, it must pass the council's scrutiny.

"That is for the sake of clarity and peace of mind for all parties involved in the scheme, from having consulted the government's legal adviser," he said.

Mr Phumtham declined to flesh out details of the bill, which is being worked on by the Finance Ministry. The goal was to make sure the bill complies with legal requirements and can be pushed through parliament as it holds the key to intense economic revitalisation, he said.

Also on Friday, Thai Sang Thai leader Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan said the wallet scheme was no magic pill for sustained growth.

It might spur purchasing power in the short term. "After that, people will be sucked back into the cycle of poverty," she said.

In addition, the country will be left to shoulder the enormous financial burden.

She suggested the government issue a debt moratorium and debt restructuring for small and medium-sized businesses and set up a micro-lending fund to pull people out of predatory and non-mainstream lending.

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