Finance minister: Digital wallet funds to exclude mobile phones

Photo courtesy of Bangkok Post

Deputy Finance Minister Julapun Amornvivat urged the Commerce Ministry to reconsider its decision to permit recipients of the 10,000-baht payout from the digital wallet scheme to use the funds on mobile phones. He argued that this move would not benefit the domestic economy as intended.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin shares these concerns, noting that most mobile phones are either manufactured overseas or contain foreign-made components.

Allowing the payout to be spent on imported items such as mobile phones could undermine the scheme’s goal of stimulating local spending and boosting the domestic economy.

Julapun, who chairs the committee overseeing the digital money scheme, highlighted that the issue was discussed during a meeting between the Finance and Commerce ministries and other state agencies. The meeting focused on which goods recipients of the 10,000-baht digital cash could purchase.

The 62 year old Thai prime minister called on the Commerce Ministry to rethink its decision, stressing that permitting the funds to be spent on mobile phones would result in money flowing out of the country.

The digital wallet scheme is a key policy of the Pheu Thai Party-led government, designed to revive the struggling economy. The scheme offers 10,000 baht in digital money to any citizen at least 16 years old with an annual income of no more than 840,000 baht.

The initiative is projected to cost the state around 500 billion baht.

The Cabinet recently approved a Budget Bureau proposal to increase the budget deficit for the 2024 fiscal year by 112 billion baht to ensure sufficient funding for the scheme.

With this additional expenditure, the 2024 fiscal year budget will be 3.48 trillion baht, marking a 13.1% increase from the 2023 budget. Proponents of the scheme argue that this is still in line with the government’s medium-term financial plan, reported Bangkok Post.

ORIGINAL STORY: Digital wallet scheme to include smartphones purchases

The Ministry of Finance confirmed that the distribution of a 10,000 baht digital wallet can be used to purchase smartphones, which are seen as essential livelihood tools by the minister.

Deputy Minister of Finance Chulpan Amornwiwat provided an update on the progress of the 10,000 baht top-up project through digital wallets. He announced that an operational subcommittee meeting is scheduled for early next week to monitor the progress of each assigned task.

The project remains on its original timeline, with registration for the public and merchants opening in the third quarter of 2024, and funds reaching the people in the fourth quarter of 2024. Chulpan remains optimistic about the project.

“Currently, the processes are quite stable, and everything is progressing as planned. The project schedule has specific steps and technical procedures to follow. The structure of the measure is fixed with no changes.

We are confident that we have expedited many aspects. Now, we need to tighten and parallelise processes where possible to speed things up. However, it looks like it will be completed by the end of the year as planned.”

Chulpan also addressed the public’s interest in non-participating products, known as the Negative List. A clear conclusion has been reached, and it is unlikely to change.

Notably, smartphones have been approved for inclusion in the project. The relevant departments have thoroughly considered the matter, recognising smartphones as essential tools for work and everyday life, and justifying their inclusion.

Regarding the proposal to the Office of the Council of State about using 172 billion baht from the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) for the digital wallet project, no steps have been taken yet.

Chulpan assured that everything will proceed according to the necessary procedures when the time is right, emphasising that there is still ample time.

The 2024 budget includes 152.7 billion baht allocated for the digital wallet, aimed at stimulating the economy. The latest details confirm that the criteria for deposits and age requirements remain unchanged, reported KhaoSod.

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Puntid Tantivangphaisal

Originally from Hong Kong, Puntid moved to Bangkok in 2020 to pursue further studies in translation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. Puntid spent 8 years living in Manchester, UK. Before joining The Thaiger, Puntid has been a freelance translator for 2 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and listening to music, as well as writing short fiction and poetry.

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