Cash handouts spark concern
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Cash handouts spark concern

Analysts question Pheu Thai tactics

Srettha Thavisin, a prime ministerial candidate of the Pheu Thai Party, announces the 10,000-baht handout policy in Nonthaburi province on Wednesday. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Srettha Thavisin, a prime ministerial candidate of the Pheu Thai Party, announces the 10,000-baht handout policy in Nonthaburi province on Wednesday. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

The Pheu Thai Party's promise to give away 10,000 baht to anyone 16 or older as part of its proposed economic stimulus policies has been called into question. How this pledge will be honoured and paid for are among the questions being asked.

The party announced during an electioneering event on Wednesday that if it can form a government after the May 14 general election, it will give 10,000 baht in digital currency to everyone 16 and over to spend on a local economic stimulus project.

The project was described by Paetongtarn Shinawatra, Pheu Thai's chief adviser on public participation and innovation, as a blockchain technology-based effort to help distribute products made in Thailand abroad and bring digital currencies into the kingdom.

The 10,000 baht is to be spent within a 4-kilometre community radius within six months during the project's early phase in a bid to attract international digital currencies.

Pheu Thai's aim is to make Thailand Asean's fintech hub, Ms Paetongtarn said.

In response to this Pheu Thai policy, Waiwit Thongthongkham, 51, a commercial bank employee, said everyone likes free money, especially low-income people but the question is where it comes from.

The initiative by Pheu Thai, which would likely be funded by the taxpayer, would indeed be a vote-winner, he said.

He also questioned why Pheu Thai had previously criticised a policy by the Prayut government regarding a state welfare scheme for poor elderly people.

Preeyaphat Raksasana, a second-year university student, disagreed with the 10,000-baht handout policy and questioned the source of funding.

"The policy is disgusting," she said. "Do they really think most people are that foolish?"

Sunthari Hatthi Sengking, an activist in an informal economy network, called on Pheu Thai to improve the quality of life for vulnerable groups, particularly poor children.

"This policy is simply intended to attract public recognition for Pheu Thai and to win more votes," she said.

Bandit Paenwiset from the Friends of Women Foundation believes the policy targets first-time voters.

"Business people-turned-politicians don't have to invest in much except in thinking of what to say to get results," Mr Bandit said.

Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, minister of Digital Economy and Society, and also deputy leader of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party, said he needs more time to study the Pheu Thai policy before commenting in detail.

On the surface, he said, the policy appears to be a reinvention of the village fund policy of Thai Rak Thai, which preceded Pheu Thai. That policy involved giving 1 million baht to every village.

Anutin Charnvirakul, leader of the Bhumjaithai Party, declined to comment on the Pheu Thai giveaway policy. He said his party preferred to focus on policies that improve people's quality of life through income generation.

"We are not treating them as people who are always waiting for money," Mr Anutin said. "They instead have the right to some assistance to help them stand on their own two feet."

Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, a minister in the prime minister's office and a chief strategist in the United Thai Nation Party, said he also wanted more detail. He estimated the budget would run to 500 billion baht if 50 million Thais were each given 10,000 baht.

Creating a digital currency would be a major challenge with implications for Thailand's entire financial system, he added. He suspected the policy was a marketing gimmick.

"Considering Thailand's current financial status, I dare say we are not financially capable of funding populist policies that involve giving away money," said Anusorn Tamajai, a leading economist.

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