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Thai finance ministry urges Cabinet to okay $6.6B cash injection

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Minister of Finance Arkhom Termpittayapaisith. THE NATION (Thailand)

Thai finance ministry urges Cabinet to okay $6.6B cash injection

Thailand's finance ministry has called on the Cabinet to allow a 200 billion baht ($6.6 billion) cash injection in the economy to support businesses and people who have been affected by the new round of Covid-19 infections.

After a meeting with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on January 11, minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said: “The government does not need to borrow more money, as we can use what is left of last year’s one trillion baht emergency loan.”

The Cabinet was set to launch a new relief package on January 12 to help businesses and workers who have been hit by the second round of the outbreak.

As for calls for a 4,000 baht 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 5,000 baht three-month cash handout.

Under the 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.

Fiscal Policy Office acting director-general Kulaya Tantitemit on January 11 said this support will include debt holiday and interest rate cut.

The ministry has up to 200 billion baht in hand, she said, 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.

Thai Bankers’ Association secretary-general Kobsak Duangdee 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.

Budget Bureau director Dechapiwat Na Songkhla said the government still has 400 billion baht of the one trillion baht emergency loan left. The government has also set aside 130 billion baht as a contingency fund to deal with Covid-19 and other potential disasters such as severe drought or floods.

Energy ministry permanent secretary Kulit Sombatsiri said his 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 would be available after the Cabinet’s approval on January 12.

Observers believe the government may subsidise utilities, such as electricity and water.

Kulit also said his 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 6.5 billion baht of the Energy Conservation Fund and is now open to proposals from agencies under its supervision. The ministry will also earmark 25 million baht for each of the 77 provinces, he added.



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