Thailand Passes $7 Billion Handout to Weather New Virus Impact

Thai cabinet signed off on a $7 billion cash handout program to help millions of low-income people weather the impact of control measures imposed to contain a new wave of Covid-19 infections.

An estimated 31.1 million people, including welfare-card holders, farmers and informal sector workers, will benefit from the direct cash transfer. The financial assistance is seen boosting gross domestic product by 0.5 to 0.6 percentage point, Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said Tuesday. Taken together with a previously announced co-payment program, government spending will bolster growth by 1 percentage point, he said.

“This program is aimed to help reduce the cost of living for those low-income earners affected by the new outbreak,” Arkhom said. “The money circulating from government programs should help boost consumption, especially in grass-root economy.”

Thailand is battling a resurgence in coronavirus cases that began in mid-December and has spread to 61 of Thailand’s 77 provinces. The new outbreak prompted government to impose localized restrictions on businesses and travel in areas that account for about 75% of nation’s economic output. While authorities have extended some fiscal stimulus measures until the middle of the year, the central bank has offered debt relief measures to borrowers to deal with the hit from the latest outbreak.

Other details of the cash handout program approved by the cabinet are:

  • Each beneficiary will get a a total of 7,000 baht through the program
  • Payment will be made weekly through the government’s e-wallet application and can be used in more than 1 million registered shops, including public transport, taxis and motorbikes
  • Government designed the program to be cashless to minimize physical contacts and also maintain control on spending only on necessary goods
  • Cash transfers will start next month and the stored money must be used up by the end of May
  • Money will come from 1 trillion baht borrowing approved last year
  • The government still has more than 200 billion baht to help curb the virus impact if necessary
  • Cabinet also approved co-payment program to help boost consumption for 1.34 million people, using unused rights from a previous plan
  • Cabinet also clears 166 million baht payment as value-added tax for the first batch of AstraZeneca vaccines

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