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Finance Ministry urges Cabinet to okay Bt200-bn cash injection


The Finance Ministry has called on the Cabinet to allow a Bt200-billion cash injection in the economy to support businesses and people who have been affected by the new round of Covid-19 infections.

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“The government does not need to borrow more money, as we can use what is left of last year’s Bt1-trillion emergency loan,” Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said after a meeting with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Monday. 
The Cabinet is set to launch a new relief package on Tuesday to help businesses and workers who have been hit by the second round of the outbreak. 
As for calls for a Bt4,000 cash handout to affected people for two months, Arkhom said he did not know how to justify such compensation. He also did not confirm whether the government will repeat last year’s Bt5,000 three-month cash handout.
Under the Finance Ministry’s plan, state banks like the Government Savings Bank (GSB), Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) and the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank of Thailand will provide liquidity to clients.
This support will include debt holiday and interest rate cut, Kulaya Tantitemit, acting director-general of the Fiscal Policy Office, said on Monday.
She said the ministry has up to Bt200 billion in hand, adding that state banks had offered similar relief after the first round of the outbreak. 
GSB’s debt holiday ended at the end of last year, while BAAC’s is due to expire in June this year. 
A source in the financial market said the central bank and commercial banks are also expected to offer debtors new relief measures, like extending debt repayment period, cutting interest rate or allowing partial payment. In the first round of the outbreak last year, banks offered debt holidays and many clients have recently resumed payments, though some are asking for a suspension of their debt. 
Kobsak Duangdee, secretary-general of the Thai Bankers’ Association, said the Bank of Thailand (BOT) has talked to commercial banks about new measures that can be introduced to support borrowers, adding that BOT expects to launch 
relief measures for specific target groups. At the same time, commercial banks will also implement new measures to support businesses. 
Dechapiwat Na Songkhla, director of the Budget Bureau, said the government still has Bt400 billion of the Bt1-trillion emergency loan left. The government has also set aside Bt130 billion as a contingency fund to deal with Covid-19 and other potential disasters such as severe drought or floods. 
Kulit Sombatsiri, the Energy Ministry’s permanent secretary, said the ministry has also proposed measures to ease the burden of people affected by the virus fallout. However, he did not elaborate, only saying that more information will be available after the Cabinet’s approval on Tuesday. 
Observers believe the government may subsidise utilities, such as electricity and water. 
Kulit also said the ministry will push state agencies under its supervision like PTT and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand to make new investments this year, as energy consumption has not dropped despite the surge of infections. 
He said the ministry will also spend Bt6.5 billion of the Energy Conservation Fund and is now open to proposals from agencies under its supervision. The ministry will also earmark Bt25 million for each of the 77 provinces, he added. 

Published : January 11, 2021

By : The Nation