Jatuporn criticises government’s proposed digital wallet scheme

Picture courtesy of Thairath

The digital wallet initiative proposed by the government has come under fire from Jatuporn Prompan, a former red-shirt leader and co-leader of the Melting Pot Group. In a livestream on Facebook, Jatuporn voiced his concerns about the ruling Pheu Thai Party’s repeated withdrawal from pledges, including their initial vow not to form a government with ex-coalition parties from the previous Prayut Chan-o-cha administration.

Jatuporn was particularly critical of the proposed digital wallet scheme. He mentioned how the government had backpedalled on its funding, now proposing to borrow half a trillion baht to finance it. This shift was a stark contrast to Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s earlier assurance of no loan procurement for policy execution.

He further highlighted the potential legal obstacles the proposed act might encounter, as it has to adhere to the State Fiscal and Financial Responsibility Act’s provisions for emergency funding. Jatuporn suggested the need for an executive decree, which would empower the government to initiate a policy to address a crisis and later seek parliamentary approval.

“The government should have opted for the decree, not an act, to justify its cause. It’s just full of contradictions”

The government has been emphasizing the urgency of delivering a 10,000 baht handout as a stimulus measure to Thais aged 16 and older, who earn less than 70,000 baht per month and have under 500,000 baht in bank deposits. This provision would make around 50 million people eligible, down from the originally intended 56 million, reported Bangkok Post.

Deputy Finance Minister, Julapun Amornvivat, justified the digital wallet project as a necessary economic stimulus. He warned of the public debt surpassing 70% of the GDP, above the fiscal discipline framework’s ceiling, by 2027 if the economy continues to expand by 2% annually while maintaining a budget deficit of 600 to 700 billion baht.

Economic stimulation

Julapun stressed the need for economic stimulation to achieve an average growth level of 5% per year, which would help narrow the public debt-to-GDP ratio in the medium term.

“If we don’t do anything and allow the government’s public debt to exceed 70%, the country’s credit rating would be derailed.”

However, Jatuporn raised suspicions that some members of the Council of State may find the 500 billion baht borrowing bill to fund the scheme legally deficient. Jatuporn further suggested that the government might face opposition from coalition parties in parliament.

“The underlying question here is whose fault would it be if the scheme didn’t pull through. Srettha might have to face the music and become the political sacrificial lamb.”

In the meantime, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, head of the Progressive Movement, suggested that the 500 billion baht allocated for the policy would be better spent revamping public transport, public health, the environment, and the education and water reticulation systems.

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.