BANGKOK : Thailand’s plan to kick-start its economy via a $14.3-billion ‘digital wallet’ handout programme will proceed by May, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin told reporters on Tuesday.
His comments come after the Office of the Council of State, an independent panel that provides legal advice to governments, found no reason that would prohibit Srettha’s cabinet from borrowing to fund the scheme.
The programme to give away 10,000 baht (around $285) to 50 million Thais to spend in their local communities was the signature election campaign policy of the ruling Pheu Thai party.
The government wants to boost growth in Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy to at least 5 per cent each year, with last year’s growth forecast at 2.4 per cent.
The handout plan has come under fire from economists and some former central bank governors who say it could be fiscally irresponsible and fuel inflation.
Srettha, who is also finance minister, said he would meet the country’s central bank governor on Wednesday to discuss the digital wallet and other matters.
The premier this week criticized the Bank of Thailand for its interest rate hikes, saying they hurt small businesses at a time when inflation is low.
“There might be disagreements, but there must be a conversation,” Srettha said, adding that it was a routine discussion.
Thailand’s headline consumer price index (CPI) dropped 0.83 per cent in December, making it the eighth straight month that it was outside the central bank’s inflation target of 1 per cent to 3 per cent.