Thai handout scheme cannot be rolled out by May as targeted

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Srettha Thavisin, Prime Minister of Thailand, speaks at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit in San Francisco, California, U.S., November 15, 2023. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s controversial $14.3-billion “digital wallet” handout scheme, aimed at reviving a sluggish economy, cannot be rolled out in May as originally targeted, a deputy finance minister said on Wednesday.

The delay will be a setback for Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s government, which has been touting the signature handout policy as essential in boosting an economy that is lagging regional peers.

The scheme would give 10,000 baht (around $285) to 50 million Thais to spend in their local communities.

“Today, looking at the timeframe, it’s unlikely for May,” Deputy Finance Minister Julapun Amornvivat said, without specifying a new timeline.

The programme, originally slated for February and delayed to May, would have allowed Thais to receive funds via a mobile application.

The digital wallet was a key election campaign policy of the ruling Pheu Thai party. It is core among a raft of stimulus measures that Srettha’s government has promised for Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy, including debt suspension for farmers and a minimum wage hike.

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