The government has sought legal advice on only one issue related to its 10,000-baht digital wallet scheme, and it is not related to a plan to borrow 500 billion baht to fund the programme, says Deputy Finance Minister Julapun Amornvivat.
He was responding to a suggestion made on Wednesday by Wissanu Krea-ngam, a former deputy prime minister who is now a member of the Council of State, the government’s legal advisory body, about how to proceed.
Mr Wissanu suggested the government split its inquiry into two parts, to ensure that it gets clear answers as to what it should actually do next to secure funding for the scheme.
Mr Julapun, who also chairs the government committee tasked with implementing the handout, declined to elaborate on the question that had been sent to the council.
Mr Wissanu confirmed that the council had not received any question from the government about its plan to pass a bill to allow the borrowing of the required 500 billion baht.
“It would be a good idea for the government to submit two questions, one after another. The first question should be whether what the government is considering doing in response to a crisis is lawful or not,” he said on Wednesday.
The Pheu Thai government has repeatedly used the word “crisis” to justify its plan to give 10,000 baht to some 50 million people in hopes of giving a huge consumption-related boost to a sluggish economy.
If the council finds the government’s plan lacks merit, a second question could be asked about what the government should do instead in dealing with the same crisis, said Mr Wissanu.
If the council responds to the second question by saying a loan bill would be constitutional, the government could then submit its draft of the bill for a legal review, he said.
However, if the government sends its draft to the council without first asking whether it is lawful to pass such a bill, the only answer it will get will relate to whether the draft is in line with the financial and budgetary discipline law, he said.
In any case, Mr Wissanu said the entire legal review process would likely be completed in time for the government to launch the digital wallet in May next year as planned.
Like a court, the council normally gives only “yes” or “no” answers to the questions asked; it does not also suggest that a government do this or that without being asked to, he said.
As for the necessity and urgency of the government to salvage the economy through the handout, he said, the Constitutional Court was unlikely to agree to interpret whether the current economic situation fits the definition of a crisis.
However, if asked instead to rule on whether the planned stimulus is necessary for maintaining economic and political security, the court would be more open to answering the question, Mr Wissanu concluded.
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