Is Prayut’s government the first to give cash handouts?
On the 20th of November, the cabinet approved to subsidize 14.5 million low-income earners who are welfare card holders, 500 baht each for the up-coming new year. The total budget of the cash handout is at 7.25 billion baht and will be distributed directly to the welfare cards between December to January 2019. There have been rumors that the government’s move for the handout is a populist move which the government denied, but is Prayut’s government’s the first to do so?
In truth, the Prayut Chan-ocha government is not the first to initiate a cash handout policy as an economic stimulus.
In 2009, the Democrat government spearheaded by Abhisit Vejjajiva attempted to stimulate the economy through a “check for the country” initiative as a result of heightened fears of spending during a significant downturn.
Abhisit joined hands with the private sector to enhance the policy and discount products and services nationwide, while approving 2,000 baht handouts which can be reimbursed into cash with Bangkok Bank.
The 9.7 million recipients under the scheme were broken down into 4 main categories; those with an income less than 15,000 baht, the unemployed, government pensioners and employees from the public sector. A total of 16 billion baht was spent on the stimulus package.
The Pheu Thai government on the other hand who has continued to criticize Prayut’s cash handout as a populist policy, also deployed a similar strategy back in 2008. The People Power party which transformed into today’s Pheu Thai party.
The People Power party was led by Samak Sundaravej who first proposed for 48 billion baht worth of cash coupons to be distributed to the poor as an economic stimulus but was widely opposed by the general public. Mr. Samak then changed it to a 6-month initiative which saw the whole country’s bus systems free-of-charge, including a waiver on water and electricity bills. This costed the government a whopping 100 billion baht.
The Pheu Thai government themselves also committed to the trend earlier when Yingluck Shinawatra was in power. Though she avoided a direct cash injection, she got 3 electricity providers (Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, Metropolitan Electricity Authority, Provincial Electricity Authority) to divert 7 billion baht worth of investment money to subsidize people’s electricity bills fully which helped 4 million low-income earners. She also continued the free train and bus services from Samak’s government, paying the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority 300 million baht a month and the train operators 60 million a month respectively.
Therefore, the Prayut government was not the first to give cash handouts to subsidize the poor as some claimed or suggested.