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Thai Government Considers Limiting Digital Wallet Use Amid Economic Concerns

Thai Government Considers Limiting Digital Wallet Use Amid Economic Concerns

In a recent development, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has raised concerns over the unrestricted use of digital wallets for purchasing smartphones and electrical appliances in Thailand. This potential backtrack comes after initial plans to allow the 10,000-baht handout to cover such purchases under a government stimulus scheme.

Deputy Finance Minister Julapun Amornvivat had previously advocated for including smartphones in the list of eligible products, citing their essential role in modern livelihoods. However, following a meeting with the digital wallet subcommittee on Monday, concerns were voiced about the implications of allowing funds to flow out of the country to overseas manufacturers.

“The Prime Minister is apprehensive that permitting the use of digital wallets to purchase imported goods like smartphones and electrical appliances could lead to capital outflow,” stated Julapun, reflecting on the discussions during the meeting. He further emphasized that PM Srettha has directed the Commerce Ministry to reassess the spending criteria in light of these concerns.

Currently, items explicitly excluded from the digital handout include fuel, services, online products, and “sin” products such as tobacco and alcohol. The handout targets registered Thai citizens aged 16 and above, with an annual income not exceeding 840,000 baht and a bank account balance below 500,000 baht.

Recipients are expected to utilize the digital money at designated stores within their local districts, fostering local economic activity. These stores, in turn, can utilize the funds earned to procure goods from other establishments nationwide.

During the meeting, progress on the establishment of a registration system for a forthcoming “super app” was also discussed. This app will serve as the primary platform for distributing the financial aid, operating on an open-loop model to connect with commercial banks, government financial institutes, and e-payment service providers.

Julapun highlighted the simplicity of the registration process, noting that individuals who have already verified their identities through the existing banking system will not need to undergo additional verification. Plans are underway to launch an educational campaign in the next 2-3 weeks, aimed at familiarizing the public and businesses with the scheme’s mechanics.

The Finance Ministry has outlined a timeline where recipients and stores can commence registration by the third quarter, with the one-time handout scheduled to commence in the fourth quarter as planned. This initiative aims to stimulate domestic consumption, bolster local businesses, and mitigate the economic impact of recent challenges.

Credit: Nation Thailand

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