Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has expressed confidence that his election campaign pledge to increase benefits for holders of state welfare cards can be fulfilled.
During a pre-election rally in Nakhon Ratchasima on Saturday, Gen Prayut, who is chief strategist for the United Thai Nation (UTN) Party, said the party would raise benefits to 1,000 baht per month.
Holders of welfare cards currently receive 200-300 baht per month, plus up to 500 baht per month for public transport expenses. Cardholders with an annual income of less than 30,000 baht are currently given 300 baht per month, while those with an annual income of between 30,000 and 100,000 baht receive 200 baht per month.
Gen Prayut said on Monday the party has studied the feasibility of raising the scheme benefits and found it to be feasible.
"There are about 15 million people, so the budget required will be 40 billion baht. That is something we can manage," he said.
He brushed aside criticism that he is trying to lure away voters from a rival party, saying he is offering a policy he knows it is feasible and would not place unnecessary burden on the government's finances.
Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon, leader of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), vowed to increase state welfare scheme benefits to 700 baht per month if his party returns to power.
"I know how the scheme is managed. As prime minister, I know how budget planning works, and I must know how much the government can spend. Some politicians talk about schemes that require hundreds of billions of baht. Where will they find the money?" Gen Prayut said.
When it was suggested that critics have called the policy a "cash handout", Gen Prayut said: "Why wouldn't they call it 'welfare'?" He also said several of the government's investments, especially in public infrastructure systems, were to promote equal opportunities.
Meanwhile, PPRP member Uttama Savanayana said on Monday it did not bother the party that Gen Prayut and the UTN were using welfare to win support.
"If you look back, you'll see who initiated it. But that is not as important as the benefits people get. If other parties want to carry on with our policy, we are happy," he said.
According to Mr Uttama, the scheme was launched in 2016 when Somkid Jatusripitak was a deputy prime minister overseeing economic affairs.