Actions that can immediately be implemented include relief for farmers and employing daily wage earners for more than four hours a day.
Measures that will have to be discussed with relevant government agencies include proposals such as reducing employers’ social security contributions from 4 per cent to 1 per cent for 180 days, granting businesses tax benefits for expenses incurred by Covid-19 prevention measures and extending procurement contracts with the government, etc.
Long-term measures include things such as amending the law to support an e-government and establishing a farmer-funded joint venture of Bt50 billion.
Kalin Sarasin, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, suggested that provinces and businesses should be split into three types when it comes to lifting restrictions.
For instance, green provinces where no Covid-19 cases have been reported for 14 days should be allowed to open low-risk businesses that do not require contact, such as department stores and restaurants provided social-distancing measures are used. At present there are 32 such provinces.
The same measures can be applied to yellow provinces, where there are not that many Covid-19 cases, though this will be left up to the discretion of the governor.
In red provinces, which have high levels of infection, no businesses should be opened.
He added that restrictions should initially be lifted in just three green provinces (two small provinces and one large province with a big business sector) as a test for two weeks.
If there are no new cases, then the government can consider entering the first phase of lifting restrictions on businesses in green and yellow provinces for one month, to see there are any infections.
The second phase will be opening both green and yellow provinces at the same time for a month to evaluate the infection levels, while the third phase will be opening businesses in all provinces.
However, for businesses to open, operators must follow strict sanitation standards. For instance, customers in shopping malls and restaurants must maintain at least a metre’s distance, each mall and eatery must limit the number of visitors allowed in and hand-sanitising gel must be provided at regular intervals. Each customer’s temperature must be measured before they enter the area, everyone is required to wear a mask at all times and no activity is allowed.
Businesses failing to follow these requirements will be closed.
Also, at least 50 per cent of people should continue working from home in both private and public agencies.
Prapat Panyachatiraksa, president of the National Farmers Council (NFC), suggested that as a relief measure, the government pay Bt5,000 to each agricultural household for at least three months or until the situation returns to normal because the agricultural sector is also affected by Covid-19. Thailand has some 8 million to 9 million households in the farming sector.
It has also been proposed that the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) and the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry suspend the repayment of loans taken by farmers for at least 12 months.
The government should also open online platforms to help farmers sell their products as well as negotiate an extension of payment period for farmers who have taken loans from private financial institutions.
Financial subsidies for farmers can come from the Bt135 billion that the Finance Ministry has earmarked to help those affected by Covid-19.
Published : April 20, 2020
By : The Nation