Thai cabinet backs US$2.2b cash aid to boost economy, jobs

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(Sept 22): Thailand’s cabinet backed several stimulus measures worth a combined budget of 70 billion baht (US$2.2 billion) to boost consumption and jobs to counter the economic downturn from the Covid-19 outbreak.

The ministerial meeting also passed a resolution to add three additional holidays this year to encourage domestic travel, as the country’s vital tourism sector has been crushed by the absence of international tourists for months because of the pandemic.

The latest stimulus plans include cash incentives for welfare cardholders and funds for members of a co-payment program geared to low-income earners and small retailers, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha said after the meeting Tuesday.

“Both the programs will help stimulate spending, increase purchasing power and reduce the cost of living,” Prayuth said.

The Thai economy is forecast to contract by more than 8% this year, its worst annual performance on record, led by a slump in exports and tourism. Still, Deputy Prime Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow said last week the worst is probably over, with stimulus programs from the previous quarter kicking in.

The Bank of Thailand is expected to hold its benchmark interest rate at an all-time low of 0.5% when its monetary-policy board meets Wednesday to support the economic revival, according to a Bloomberg survey.

More from the cabinet includes:

  • Approved in-principle two programs to boost local consumption, following an economic panel’s recommendation last week. Final details and terms will be submitted to the cabinet next week
  • Approved 19.5 billion baht for a co-pay program with the private sector for 260,000 new graduates to be hired for one-year employment
  • Addition of three holidays, Nov 19, Nov 20 and Dec 11, with government agencies and most businesses to shut to create long weekends, encouraging domestic travel
  • Added Covid-19 as a “prohibited disease” in the immigration law, to prevent infected foreigners from entering country
  • Approved 204 million baht from the central budget for the prevention and resolution of a second-wave outbreak
  • Approved an additional 1.58 billion baht to fund activities of 1 million health volunteers nationwide in the final quarter of 2020
  • Allocated an additional 677.8 million baht to reward 273,321 village authorities for their work in the Covid-19 outbreak
  • Extended the petroleum contract by 10 years for the S1 onshore block for PTTEP Siam, a unit of PTT Exploration & Production
  • Extended the water and electricity subsidy for 13.9 million welfare cardholders through September 2021