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Thai parliament urged to pass record 1.9 trillion baht ($59.6 billion) stimulus bill

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha on Wednesday urged parliament to approve the kingdom’s biggest-ever stimulus package to revive an economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Agence France-Presse

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Customers order food in a restaurant in a Bangkok shopping mall

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha on Wednesday urged parliament to approve the kingdom’s biggest-ever stimulus package to revive an economy battered by coronavirus, which has brought tourism to a standstill, slashed exports and left millions jobless. 

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The 1.9 trillion baht ($59.6 billion) package would be a much-needed financial boost for Southeast Asia’s second biggest economy, which is expected to shrink by 5-6 percent in 2020. 

Members of parliament — who inaugurated a new building on Wednesday — are set to discuss three bills over the next five days covering healthcare, unemployment and a fund to stabilise markets and boost purchasing power. 

The opposition Pheu Thai party has vowed to grill the ruling military-backed government — which holds a slim majority — on the bill and its handling of the epidemic. 

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha pleaded for the swift passage of the bill, saying the administration was currently attempting to manage the economy “using the central budget, the next year’s budget, or transferring” from other areas.

“But it is not enough,” Prayut told the opening session.

“To get the country back on track… we urgently need the budget of 1.9 trillion baht.” 

About 550 billion baht ($17.2 billion) is expected to go to farmers and informal workers such as street vendors and those employed in massage parlours and bars.

Tourism-reliant Thailand started showing the first signs of the virus in January when Beijing prohibited its citizens from travelling abroad.

Chinese make up a majority of the kingdom’s visitors.

Tourism revenues dropped by 40 percent in the first quarter, Prayut said, and the next quarter will be even “more severe.” 

The virus toll, which stands at a little over 3,000 infections and 57 deaths, has slowed in recent weeks and the country is gradually reopening. 

But the restrictions — and a ban on inbound flights — have left Thais struggling to put food on the table. 

Last week the CCSA (Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration), said that the emergency decree would remain in effect for another month, until the end of June.

The government enforced the state of emergency on March 26 until April 30 and imposed a curfew on April 3.

A local trade association estimates that 6.5 million people will be permanently out of a job by the end of 2020.

So far, more than 20 million have registered for a government handout of 5,000 baht (US$150), while many others say they have been left out of the scheme. 

The kingdom’s economy was flagging even before the pandemic.

Many in politically febrile Thailand are unhappy with the ex-generals, who seized power in a 2014 coup and still run the government. 

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National News Bureau of Thailand

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BANGKOK (NNT) – Thailand’s fruit exports continue to increase, despite the sluggish global economy caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, with key trade partners being countries that have free trade agreements (FTAs) with the kingdom.

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50:50 campaign may not get immediate extension

National News Bureau of Thailand

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BANGKOK (NNT) – The government’s 50:50 co-pay campaign expiring on 31st March may not be getting an immediate campaign extension. The Minister of Finance says campaign evaluation is needed to improve future campaigns.

The Minister of Finance Arkhom Termpittayapaisith today announced the government may not be able to reach a conclusion on the extension of the 50:50 co-pay campaign in time for the current 31st March campaign end date, as evaluations are needed to better improve the campaign.

Originally introduced last year, the 50:50 campaign is a financial aid campaign for people impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, in which the government subsidizes up to half the price of purchases at participating stores, with a daily cap on the subsidy amount of 150 baht, and a 3,500 baht per person subsidy limit over the entire campaign.

The campaign has already been extended once, with the current end date set for 31st March.

The Finance Minister said that payout campaigns for the general public are still valid in this period, allowing time for the 50:50 campaign to be assessed, and to address reports of fraud at some participating stores.

The Fiscal Police Office Director General and the Ministry of Finance Spokesperson Kulaya Tantitemit, said today that a bigger quota could be offered in Phase 3 of the 50:50 campaign beyond the 15 million people enrolled in the first two phases, while existing participants will need to confirm their identity if they want to participate in Phase 3, without the need to fill out the registration form.

Mrs Kulaya said the campaign will still be funded by emergency loan credit allocated for pandemic compensation, which still has about 200 billion baht available as of today.

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