Thai govt’s 500 billion baht digital wallet scheme awaits legal review

Picture courtesy of Bangkok Post

The Thai government’s bill proposing a loan of 500 billion baht to fund the 10,000-baht digital wallet scheme is yet to be reviewed by the Council of State for its legality, according to the council’s secretary-general, Pakorn Nilprapunt. This came as a rebuttal to Deputy Prime Minister Phumtham Wechayachai’s previous statement that the loan bill was under the council’s vetting process.

Pakorn disclosed this information following a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, where he also mentioned a conversation with Deputy Finance Minister Julapun Amornvivat.

“I enquired about when the letter regarding the loan would reach the Council of State, and the minister mentioned that he was investigating the matter.”

The digital wallet policy committee of the government has reportedly prompted the Finance Ministry to consult the council on whether the digital money handout complies with the prerequisites for a loan, Pakorn stated.

“This is merely an inquiry. It doesn’t extend to drafting a bill to seek the loan. Once the inquiry comes to us, the council will start its deliberation.”

He further clarified if the scheme aligned with the requirements, the loan could be pursued, and the next step would be to draft the loan bill. If it failed to meet the conditions, the loan would be declined. Pakorn also mentioned that he faced criticism for slow progress despite the inquiry not yet reaching him, reported Bangkok Post.

Loan bill

In case the loan bill is disapproved, Pakorn suggested that the government would have to figure out a solution independently. He highlighted that the Council of State’s role was to provide advice on legal technicalities and not to determine the country’s crisis status.

It is the government’s responsibility to gather evidence to support its assertion that the economy is in dire straits and requires economic stimulus, Pakorn said.

These developments came in the wake of a new petition seeking to halt the contentious scheme, a significant election manifesto commitment of Pheu Thai. Critics question the government’s justification for the 500 billion baht expenditure as crucial to addressing a crisis triggered by a severe dip in consumer spending power.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin stated yesterday that he was not informed about the inquiry not yet being sent to the Council of State.

“Nobody has criticized the council’s secretary-general.”

According to a source at a meeting of Pheu Thai MPs, the 61 year old prime minister insisted that the scheme must proceed. The source revealed that the Bangkok-born Thai prime minister, quoting data from the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC), mentioned that Thailand’s GDP in the third quarter was just 1.5%, lower than Vietnam and Malaysia, both at 3%.

On Monday, political activist Srisuwan Janya lodged a petition requesting the State Audit Office and State Audit Commission to scrutinize the planned implementation of the digital wallet scheme and determine if it contravenes state financial and budgetary discipline laws.

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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.

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