By THE NATION
RICE, EGGS, cooking oil and fish sauce were the most popular items being purchased with the new welfare cash cards, according to Deputy Commerce Minister Sonthirat Sonthijirawong.
But the Commerce Ministry has also found that there have been delays in some places because some registered users did not know the amount of credit on their cards, he said.
The ministry has submitted a list of 15,489 participating shops for approval by the Comptroller General’s Department, 5,000 of which are already equipped with devices to read the cards.
Sonthirat also said the ministry would dispatch teams to organise Blue Flag product fairs at various sites later this week to accommodate demand.
On Sunday, 110,000 people – or 1 per cent of the 11.4 million registered low-income earners – used the cards to buy goods worth Bt90 million.
There were also between 200 and 300 purchases of bus tickets under the scheme on the same day.
Finance Ministry permanent secretary Somchai Sujjapongse said he would propose this month that the National e-Payment Committee give welfare-card holders entry into a monthly lucky draw featuring prizes worth Bt1 million, which would begin in November.
Meanwhile, Nakhon Ratchasima commerce official Thawatchai Laowiroon said the past two days had seen problems with the card-reading devices, including machine malfunctions and unstable Internet connections.
He said he had also heard reports that some shops that did not yet have card-reading devices had seized people’s cards in exchange for goods, or had allowed people to take goods and owe them the money. These actions could potentially cause the shops to be cut from the scheme, he said.
Meanwhile, in the northeastern province of Buri Ram, a large number of registered low-income earners crowded a Taweekit mall branch in Prakhon Chai district to buy commodities yesterday. Many were there for hours before the mall’s opening time of 9.30am, according to a reporter who saw a long queue.
The mall, which is equipped with two card readers, is the only shop in the district participating in the scheme so far, and it has reportedly received at least 1,000 registered low-income customers per day since the card went into effect on Sunday.
The scheme is meant to help people registered as earning no more than Bt100,000 a year to cope with living costs.
People earning less than Bt30,000 a year get a Bt300 monthly allowance to buy commodities from Blue Flag or other participating shops, while those earning more than Bt30,000 but less than Bt100,000 a year get a Bt200 monthly allowance
While registered people nationwide started to reap benefits of the card on October 1, those in Bangkok and seven nearby provinces will be able to use an additional chip in their cards for city bus transport starting on October 17.