‘Rich people’ dumped from 10,000-baht digital wallet scheme after criticism


Wealthy people will not be eligible for the 10,000-baht digital wallet scheme, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin announced on Wednesday.

The move follows criticism of the scheme – including by the central bank – to hand out 10,000-baht digital payments to every Thai citizen aged 16 and over.

The cost of the original scheme was calculated at over 560 billion baht.

Srettha, who doubles as the finance minister, explained that the government took heed of suggestions that rich people should not benefit from the scheme, which was a core policy of his Pheu Thai party’s election campaign.

Pheu Thai now leads the government coalition.

“We will adjust the scheme at this point. We will look for an appropriate and fair definition for ‘rich’ people,” Srettha said.

The PM said he listened to advice from Bank of Thailand Governor Sethaput Suthiwartnarueput, who insisted that the 10,000-baht handout should be limited to those in need and not be extended to wealthy individuals.

The policy had drawn criticism from the current and former central bank governors, as well as economists. They voiced concern that recipients would not spend the 10,000-baht handouts to stimulate the economy as intended.

Srettha also said the scheme might be postponed from its original start date of February 1 due to complications.

“I’m checking it,” Srettha replied when a reporter asked him to confirm or deny speculation that the scheme would be delayed.

Asked whether it would start within the first quarter of next year, Srettha replied: “We’ll try to get it implemented as soon as possible”.

The prime minister declined to elaborate on how the scheme would be funded, saying the matter would be discussed at the next meeting of the digital wallet scheme steering committee.

He said the date of that meeting depended on preparations by Deputy Finance Minister Julapun Amornvivat, who chairs the subcommittee tasked with arranging the scheme’s implementation.

Earlier, Julapun said his subcommittee was waiting for relevant government agencies to file reports that will be compiled for the full committee to consider and approve.

Srettha also dismissed proposals that the government deliver the 10,000-baht payments in instalments.

“We will pay it in one go because we want it to be spent to stimulate the economy,” he explained.

The PM also dismissed claims that the scheme could break the law, as alleged by Move Forward Party MP Sirikanya Tansakul.

“Not at all. I’m not worried,” Srettha replied when a reporter mentioned Sirikanya’s comment.

He also dismissed speculation that Pheu Thai’s coalition partners oppose the digital wallet scheme, insisting they were fully behind the policy.

Srettha added that he had told all Pheu Thai ministers to speed up implementation of so-called “quick win” policies pledged during the election.