File photo : Move Forward deputy leader Sirikanya Tansakul
The adjustments to the digital wallet scheme, as proposed by an ad hoc sub-committee, are an indication that the government is encountering problems in securing the estimated Bt560 billion needed to fund it, Move Forward deputy leader Sirikanya Tansakul said today (Thursday).
Even if the scheme is downsized to reach only those who are in need of the benefit, using means testing, the government will still need about Bt430 billion to fund the scheme for 43-49 million beneficiaries, instead of about 55 million as originally planned.
Again, even if the funding needed is cut to 430 billion baht, she said that there won’t be enough money in the national budget for the 2024 fiscal year, which means that the cost will have to be spread across four fiscal years, at about 100 billion baht a year.
The Move Forward party-list MP noted that, if the budget is spread over four years, many shops may not be interested in joining the scheme, because they may not receive cash refunds immediately and have to wait until the next fiscal year to be paid by the government for goods and/or services bought by the consumers.
She pointed out that the scheme may hit a dead end, because the government cannot get the required funding from state-run banks, due to budgetary constraints, adding that the scheme may require a complete overhaul if the original objectives cannot be achieved.
Sirikanya said that the government may, finally, choose the first option proposed, which is to limit the digital wallet scheme to low-income earners or those who hold state welfare cards, but this will not help stimulate the economy, as intended by the government.
She said that the most convenient option, to make implementation of the scheme possible, without worrying about budgetary constraints, is to issue an executive decree to allow the government borrow from financial institutions, similar to the decree which was promulgated during the COVID pandemic.
She noted a hitch in this option, however. An executive decree can be promulgated only in case of an emergency, otherwise the government may risk a political crisis for breaching the Constitution “which may be political suicide.”