Thailand slashes digital wallet budget amid corruption fears

Photo courtesy of The Nation

The Thai government has decided to slash the budget for its digital wallet scheme from 500 billion baht to 450 billion, scrapping plans to borrow 170 billion baht from the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC).

Deputy Finance Minister Julapun Amornvivat announced the decision yesterday, July 10, citing corruption concerns raised by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).

Julapun revealed that the subcommittee, responsible for steering the digital wallet scheme, decided after the NACC warned against setting an excessively high budget. Following the warning, the Finance Ministry tasked the Fiscal Policy Office (FPO) with examining the issue. The FPO found that most government schemes typically see 90% participation from eligible recipients, prompting the Budget Bureau to propose the budget reduction.

The new budget proposal will be presented to the national digital wallet policy committee, chaired by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, on July 15. The exact number of recipients will be determined after registration closes at the end of September.

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“Both the Finance Ministry and Budget Bureau do not see the need for the government to allocate a budget higher than the expected actual spending of 450 billion.”

If registration reaches 50 million recipients, the government will adjust the budget accordingly. The scaled-down 450 billion baht budget will be sourced from the 2024 and 2025 fiscal years: 160 billion baht from FY 2024 (with 122 billion baht from additional budget and 40 billion baht from other cuts) and 285 billion baht from FY 2025 (with 152.7 billion baht from the annual budget and 132.3 billion baht from other reductions).

Julapun added that this budget trim means the government will avoid breaching the Financial Discipline Act by not relying on state bank funds. Additionally, the subcommittee voted to exclude electric appliances, electronic gadgets, and communication devices, including smartphones, from being purchased with the 10,000-baht handout.

These decisions now await approval from the Thai prime minister’s committee. Eligible recipients must be at least 16 years old by September 30, have savings of no more than 500,000 baht as of March 31, and earn no more than 840,000 baht during the 2023 tax year, reported The Nation.

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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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