In search of a cure for lost incomes
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In search of a cure for lost incomes

Academics, parties, civic groups present 'wish lists'

A woman wearing a protective mask prays in front of the King Rama V statue near Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease on Sunday. (Reuters photo)
A woman wearing a protective mask prays in front of the King Rama V statue near Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease on Sunday. (Reuters photo)

The first batch of financial aid the government has pledged to relieve the economic pain brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic is making its way to the people, who are desperate for help.

As of last Friday, around 4 million people out of the 27.5 million who have registered for the 5,000-baht cash handout scheme should have seen the aid land in their bank accounts.

According to the Finance Ministry, about 20 billion baht in aid has been rolled out, and with the 45 billion baht the government has on hand, some nine million people will get help this month.

However, as the virus continued to wreak havoc on individuals and businesses both big and small, economists, politicians and civil groups have come up with their own Covid-19 relief "wish lists", replete with suggestions to help the government reach out to more individuals -- especially those who are in dire need of help.


A team of researchers at the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) has come up with a five-point proposal, in which aid is handed out to every family in need for three months -- the amount of which is dependent on the number of individuals in each household.

A household with one or two members, for example, would be entitled to 1,500 baht a month. Meanwhile, a family of three or four members would get 2,500 a month, with 500-baht extra added for every additional member.

The approach will cover workers who aren't subscribed to the government's social security scheme and, as such, aren't covered by unemployment benefits.

According to the TDRI, individuals who own a house and/or land worth more than 3 million baht; have savings of more than 100,000 baht, or earn more than 15,000 baht a month should be excluded from the scheme. Based on these criteria, aid would need to be rolled out to about 7 million households.

The TDRI is also urging the government to consider other measures, such as rent relief and wage subsidies to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as employees in this sector face a higher risk of losing their job during the crisis.

Other relief measures, such as discounts on electricity and water bills, should be scrapped once the scheme is in place, as they would be redundant.

Last week on Tuesday, Somchai Jitsuchon, TDRI's Research Director for Inclusive Development Policy, touted the policy's benefits on Facebook, saying the recent commotion around the 5,000-baht handout would have been averted if the government adopted the TDRI's approach.

Thammasat economists

A group of 18 lecturers from the university's Faculty of Economics has suggested a 3,000-baht income support scheme and the direct distribution of food and essential supplies to vulnerable communities.

Under their proposal, a monthly payout of 3,000 baht -- just above the poverty line in Thailand -- would be granted to everyone aged 18 and above for three months, with the exception of civil servants, state enterprise employees and subscribers of the Social Security Fund.

According to them, this scheme -- which would cost the government around 440 billion baht over the course of three months -- will be more effective than the current 5,000 baht handout, because it would also cover farmers and students, as well as informal workers.

Meanwhile, food and basic supplies would be directly distributed to vulnerable groups -- including the homeless and migrant workers left stranded by the outbreak. Over a three-month period, the scheme would cost the government 7.8 billion baht.

The costs, the proposal said, should be covered by the one-trillion-baht loan the government plans to take up to alleviate the impact of Covid-19 on the economy.

The economists also called on the Bank of Thailand to intervene and help those struggling with loan repayments. According to their proposal, banks and other lenders should freeze interest repayments and suspend bankruptcy proceedings against individuals and small businesses throughout the crisis.

Democrat Party

The coalition member has suggested the creation of a comprehensive strategy to get the workforce and businesses back on track when the crisis eases, in addition to relief measures.

Democrat deputy leader and head of the party's economic team, Prinn Panitchpakdi, said the government needs to allocate enough money to prepare for the eventual recovery.

He said the government should consider cash incentives to encourage workers to acquire and/or upgrade their skills, with payouts made contingent on the completion of certain training programmes.

Democrat MP for Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thepthai Senpong, also called for a revision of the 2020 budget, saying more investment and development funds should be allocated to human resource development.

Monthly income support should also be provided to everyone affected by Covid-19, with the exception of civil servants and well-to-do individuals.

Citing problems surrounding the 5,000-baht payout, Democrat MP for Nakhon Si Thammarat Chaichana Dejdecho said the next payment should be granted to households instead, rather than individuals.

He suggested a 10,000-baht payout to eligible households, which would be determined by the Interior Ministry's population database.

Move Forward Party

The reincarnation of the Future Forward Party's proposal is focussed on students -- with items on its wish list ranging from the partial refunds of tuition fees to cash handouts for students who work part-time to support themselves.

According to party-list MP Rangsiman Rome, many students who work to support themselves have been affected by the closure of businesses.

With classes suspended or moved online, operating costs are likely to be much lower, so universities should consider returning some of the tuition fees, he said.

With regard to students who took out loans from the Students' Loan Fund, Mr Rangsiman said the SLF should not pursue further action if a student misses a repayment, given the circumstances. He also urged universities to relax course requirements for study grant recipients.

Party spokesman Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn said the government should scrap rules which make it harder for people in need to access the aid. He also urged the government to ensure the 5,000-baht handout is accessible to everyone, including students.

According to Mr Wiroj, a portion of the Social Security Fund's 12 million members are also feeling the pinch, as many employers have docked salaries and enforced leave-without-pay measures to stay afloat.

The government should extend its relief measures to include these workers, as well as the 11.5 million informal workers in the agricultural sector, Mr Wiroj said. He added the government must also make sure food and essential supplies are delivered to vulnerable individuals and groups.

Kla Party

Party leader, Korn Chatikavanij, has called on the government to cover social security contributions -- for both employees and employers -- for six months and lower income tax rates for the 2019 fiscal year to boost cash flow among wage-earners.

The government should also extend relief measures to SMEs by paying loan interests for three months, capped at 30,000 baht per entrepreneur. Soft loans of 50,000 baht, with a 1% monthly interest, should also be granted to SMEs and small entrepreneurs.

According to Mr Korn, the 5,000-baht baht cash payout should be expanded to cover 24 million people, which are divided into three groups -- 12 million freelancers, including street vendors and SMEs; 4 million farmers, who are not covered by the government's income guarantee scheme; and 8 million low-income earners in the tourism and service sectors. "These groups have been hard-hit by the Covid-19 from the start. Their incomes are already low and now, many of them can't go out and make a living. The government will need 120 billion baht a month, or 360 billion baht for three months, to help these people," he said.

Civic groups

According to the Four Slum Network and Human Settlement Foundation Thailand, the 5,000-baht handout should be extended to cover 50 million people who are aged 18 and above. The scheme, they estimated, will cost 250 billion baht.

Otherwise, the government should opt for monthly income support of 3,000 baht for two months, for individuals living below the poverty line. This would cost the government 300 billion baht, according to their estimates.

The government should also help lower the cost of living by cutting fees for basic services -- such as electricity, water, telephone and public transportation. Value-added taxes for essential goods should also be lowered for at least six months.

The Bank of Thailand should step in and make commercial banks suspend capital and interest repayments for at least three months. Interests for home loans should be frozen for 12 months and interest rate cuts should also be considered for farmers, students and SMEs. Lockdown rules should be relaxed to allow vendors to resume operations, but strict enforcement of social distancing measures and public hygiene must remain.

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