NLA passes bill to have sin tax help elderly poor

NLA passes bill to have sin tax help elderly poor

Measure will give fund kitty B4bn per annum

A new law passed Thursday will divert 2% of 'sin taxes' from alcohol and cigarettes into funding pensions for the rapidly increasing number of old people.
A new law passed Thursday will divert 2% of 'sin taxes' from alcohol and cigarettes into funding pensions for the rapidly increasing number of old people.

The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) has passed a bill enabling the allocation of up to 4 billion baht a year from sin taxes to support the monthly living allowance for the elderly poor.

The bill was rushed through its second and third reading by the NLA Thursday. The legislation passed with a unanimous vote of 181 in favour with six abstentions in the third reading.

The legislation was drafted to funnel 2% of excise tax on liquor, beer and cigarettes, or up to four billion baht per year, to a fund supporting the country's low-income senior citizens.

The National Committee for the Elderly, according to the bill, will outline guidelines on who will be entitled to the support.

Adm Polawat Sirodom, head of the NLA committee vetting the bill, told assembly members that financial support under this bill will not be given to everyone.

Those eligible for the assistance must be at least 60 years old and have an income of no more than 100,000 baht a year, he said, adding that beneficiaries must also be registered under the government's low-income earner assistance scheme.

The National Committee for the Elderly, he said, will outline criteria on how much assistance the elderly poor would receive.

Most lawmakers agreed with using sin taxes to support low-income seniors, but they wanted eligibility for the support clearly spelled out.

According to a Fiscal Policy Office report, people aged 60 and over will account for 20% of the total population by 2025, up from 14% in 2015.

The report said the state's financial obligation in contributing to the Social Security Fund, the National Savings Fund (NSF) and the Government Pension Fund will rise to 698 billion baht in total in fiscal 2024 from 290 billion baht in fiscal 2016.

Presently, all elderly citizens are entitled to a progressive living allowance, with those aged 60-69 receiving 600 baht a month, those between 70-79 getting 700 baht, those aged 80-89 receiving 800 baht, while those aged 90 and older get 1,000 baht.

There are roughly 10 million people aged 60 or older nationwide, 8 million of whom depend on a monthly living allowance from the government. The state spends 70 billion baht annually to cover their living costs.

Meanwhile, lawmakers also passed a bill on public debt management following its second and third readings Thursday. The bill was an amendment to the 2005 law on public debt.

With the law now amended, public debt excludes debts of the central bank and those of state enterprises running businesses connected to offering loans, asset management and guaranteeing credit that are not guaranteed by the Finance Ministry.

The legislation stipulates that Public Debt Policy and Supervision Committee consists of 12 members with the finance minister serving as a chairperson.

The Public Debt Restructuring and Domestic Bond Market Development Fund, according to the amendment, can proceed with domestic investment with five financial instruments -- bonds issued or guaranteed by the Finance Ministry, bonds issued by the Bank of Thailand (BoT), bonds which top credit ratings, bonds issued by the Finance Ministry and the BoT under reverse repurchase agreements as well as deposits in financial institutions.

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