Move Forward takes govt to task in debate

Move Forward takes govt to task in debate

Digital wallet, PM's trips top agenda

Sirikanya: Queries about financing
Sirikanya: Queries about financing

The main opposition Move Forward Party (MFP) on Wednesday took the government to task over the changes made to the 10,000-baht digital wallet handout scheme, saying there was no clarity about the funding source that has already been changed five times.

On the first day of the general debate, MFP deputy leader Sirikanya Tansakun focused on the ruling Pheu Thai Party's flagship policy which has been postponed several times and the changing source of funding.

She sad it remains unclear how the party's flagship policy would be financed but speculated the government was likely to use three sources: the central budget for fiscal 2024, the 2025 annual budget, and a loan from the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC).

The MFP list-MP also discussed changes to the digital wallet scheme.

The government initially planned to finance it from the fiscal 2024 budget, but there was insufficient funds. It explored other potential sources including borrowing from the Government Savings Bank (GSB), issuing a loan bill, using the national budget, and using a combination of loans and the budget but all faced legal constraints.

"The government was at its wits end to find sources of funds and the changes made to the details of the scheme only indicated the government's lack of readiness.

"This made people lose confidence and question if the scheme would ever materialise," she added.

Ms Sirikanya criticised the measures to alleviate the cost of living as not being sustainable and asked if the government had other plans in place as the current subsidy programme for oil and electricity would soon expire.

She demanded to know how the government would deal with the Oil Fuel Fund's debt which reportedly reached 100 billion at the end of March and said the fund's borrowing was close to its limit.

The MFP MP said the visa-free scheme for Chinese tourists was not as effective as intended and demanded to know how the government's policy to make Thailand a tourism hub can address the issue and reduce reliance on Chinese visitors.

In response, Deputy Finance Minister Julapun Amornvivat said the details of the scheme are expected to be clearer on April 10 and added he could not provide information until it is finalised by the the Digital Wallet Policy Committee.

However, he said the digital wallet scheme would be rolled out in the last quarter of this year.

"It's true that changes have been made to the policy including the number of recipients and sources of funding. These modifications were made not because we wanted to, but due to recommendations from various agencies so the scheme could move forward," he said.

Meanwhile, Democrat Party list-MP Jurin Laksanawisit lambasted the government for not focusing on important issues and questioned Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin's overseas trips.

"It's good he plays the role of salesman. But the question is, can he close any deals?"

He cited the recent denial by the organisers of Tomorrowland, an electronic dance music festival, that the event would come to Thailand.

"I believe in the next two years we'll see an influx of investments that can be called a tsunami of investment," Mr Srettha said.

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