Government focuses on debt relief and material aid while stimulus waits for approval

Thailand’s government said on Friday that it would focus on debt relief and material aid to help people affected by a government-imposed partial lockdown as a second wave of coronavirus infections ravaged the country.

The government has restricted travel and halted some economic activity across the country and especially in five provinces most affected by Covid-19. Malls, restaurants, and other services-related industries have had to suspend workers and shutter doors as part of the government’s new measures.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha said on Tuesday that the government will compensate 40 million people for income loss due to coronavirus restrictions.

“We are considering compensation over the two-month period for almost 40 million people so it will require a lot of money,” Prayut said.

The prime minister added that the government had enough left in the coffers to pay for the financial assistance.

However, two senior sources in the cabinet say that financial assistance was still “weeks away” from becoming a reality.

“The cash stimulus will require cabinet approval, will require the right distribution method, and will require planning because the last time we implemented a cash handout it was chaotic,” said a senior advisor to the cabinet who asked for anonymity.

“That means that we are likely weeks away from the money reaching the people in need.”

As a result, the sources said, the government will implement debt-relief measures and material aid to the most in-need families.

Debt relief

The Government Savings Bank (GSB), Thailand’s biggest state-owned lender, said on Thursday that it will offer debt-relief measures to people in the highest-controlled zones from January 8.

Vitai Ratanakorn, the bank’s president, said that people in 28 provinces are eligible to participate in the relief measures.

According to the bank’s database, that amounts to 1.8 million people with a credit limit around 670 billion baht.

GSB will consider the suspension of the principal and focus on interest payment – which can also be reduced.

Vitai said that debt-relief measures will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

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