Govt shrugs off wallet criticism
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Govt shrugs off wallet criticism

Cites study which puts growth rate at up to 4.73%

The government on Sunday shrugged off calls for it to rethink its intention to push ahead with the 10,000-baht digital money handout scheme, saying details of the project could be adjusted and fine-tuned but not its core principle of being intended as a tool to kick-start the economy.

The economy has been sluggish for nine to 10 years and Thailand is critically in need of a powerful mechanism to stimulate it, or the country will end up facing a dim economic outlook in the years to come, said Deputy Prime Minister Phumtham Wechayachai.

Before the 2014 military coup, which ousted the Yingluck Shinawatra administration, the economy of the northeastern province of Udon Thani, for instance, was booming, with a huge number of people crossing the border from neighbouring Laos, he said.

The economy has stagnated ever since the coup, while many small- and medium-entrepreneurs have gone out of business, he said. The government has referred to the nine years of stagnation which followed as Thailand's "lost decade".

As for the estimated 560 billion baht fund required for sponsoring the digital wallet scheme, if it really needs to be obtained by means of borrowing, he said, that shouldn't be a problem.

The previous government borrowed a trillion baht and that caused no issues.

Nor would this loan, if it was needed, as long as the money was strictly spent on stimulating the economy as it was intended, he said.

He also welcomed the move by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to set up a panel to study the government's handout scheme and gather opinions from experts and the public.

Critics of the scheme say the economy is no need of an injection of cash in such a fashion and say the money could be better spent elsewhere. Some has also bought means-testing of the giveaway, to ensure the money goes only to those who need it.

Mr Phumtham said the NACC's role will actually help ensure the project's implementation is in line with the law, which would be good for the government.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin on Sunday promised supporters who greeted him in Udon Thani during a visit on Sunday that the digital money handout would come in February as planned.

Government spokesman Chai Wacharonke, meanwhile, cited findings from a study conducted by an economic team led by economist Suwit Sapwitthayasiri, to support the policy. The study said it "has a good potential to spur economic growth at most from 4.73% next year to 5.54% in 2027."

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