Thai government lowers consumer bills to help face Covid-19 crisis

The cabinet on Tuesday approved measures to lower utility bills, give cash handouts and provide more soft loans to mitigate the economic impacts of the second wave of the coronavirus outbreak.

“They might not be much but it should help mitigate the problem for now,” Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha said after the cabinet meeting.

Electricity, water and internet bills will be lowered for two to three months, he added.

For water bills, the discount is 10 per cent for two months for households and small businesses, February to March.

For electricity bills, the discount is based on usage. For smaller households that do not consume more than 150 kilowatt hours per month, the bill will be free for the first 90 units.

For households that use more than 150 units of electricity per month, the discount will be on a sliding scale and based on usage, with more details to be provided by related agencies.

For small businesses, only the first 50 units will be free for two months.

The internet bill for households and registered mobile users will be lowered for three months, with more details will be provided by service providers.

The cabinet also approved a cash handout of 3,500 baht per person spread into two monthly payments for farmers, employees and workers in the informal sector who have been affected by the outbreak and the partial lockdown.

During the first wave of the outbreak in April the government handed out 5,000 baht in Covid-19 relief money.

The third phase of the government’s co-payment stimulus scheme, “Khon La Khrueng” or “Let’s Go Halves”, was also approved with an additional one million registrations to be made available for low-income earners around the end of January.

More than 650,000 small merchants participated in the first phase when more than 7.8 million people registered for the scheme. Another five million people registered for the second phase in December.

The government can still provide another 200 billion baht worth of soft loans for small businesses with the leftover budget from the one-trillion-baht emergency loan that they took out last year, the premier said.

In the first place, the Government Savings Bank will provide micro loans of 10,000 to 15,000 baht with an interest rate of 0.1-0.35 per cent to low-income earners.

Regulators, state-owned and commercial banks are also discussing more measures, which will be announced by the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Thailand later.

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