BANGKOK /PRNewswire/ — Thailand has performed well in containing the COVID-19 outbreak and mitigating its impact. Since 27 April 2020, the number of new COVID-19 cases has increased only slightly, while some days saw no new cases at all.
About 96 per cent of those infected have fully recovered, and fatality rate is less than 2 per cent, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand states.
Thailand, which has received praise for its performance in containing the COVID-19 outbreak, has since 3 May 2020 gradually relaxed restrictions on local travel and certain types of business, while implementing strict social distancing rules.
In tandem with public health measures, the government is addressing economic risks by injecting loans and financial assistance to the people. Some observers rightly noted that if the economy is an ailing patient in dire need of oxygen, the cash flow pumped in by the government is comparable to the breath of fresh air in a stale room.
Economic relief measures in three phases
To date, Thailand has approved economic relief measures in three phases that cater to entrepreneurs, blue collars and households so that sources of revenue, whether in the form of income, aid or loan is accessible by every vulnerable sector of society.
The overarching principle is to maintain liquidity and allow cash to remain in the hands of the people. These measures could be roughly categorised into three objectives, namely, to ease public expense burden, to add revenue and to keep the economic engine lubricated and running.
Easing the tax burden
On easing expense burden, water and electricity bills for all households were waived or discounted for three months. Personal and corporate income tax filings and payment deadlines have been extended.
Withholding tax rate has been reduced from 3 to 1.5 percent for six months. State properties rental fee that are used for residential and agricultural purposes will be exempted for one year. Furthermore, financial institutions are to postpone clients’ payment of loans for cars, motorcycles and housing.
Adding revenue is more challenging since all the engines of economic growth are nearly paralysed. Since the government is the last standing ‘big spender’ in the market, it is employing every possible channel and mechanism to ensure that the relief is inclusive.
For instance, laid-off informal workers have been receiving 5,000 baht to compensate wages for three months while those registered with the Social Security Fund will receive 70 per cent of their wages up to 200 days. A 40-billion baht loan programme will enable those eligible to obtain a 10,000 baht emergency loan with a monthly interest rate of 0.1 per cent.
Low interest loans
At the same time, SMEs can apply for a low interest loan from the Government Savings Bank and SMEs Bank. The government has also approved a 150 billion baht budget for the distribution of 15,000 baht to ten million registered farmers.
Measures to sustain the economic sectors include the initiative for the Bank of Thailand to provide 500 billion baht of soft loans to financial institutions so that they can offer loans to certain SMEs. Another one trillion baht has been allocated to resuscitate sectors from agriculture to tourism.
Moreover, Thailand is investing in human resources by providing training in necessary skills such as language training for tour guides and business management for entrepreneurs.
Most importantly, the government has gradually relaxed certain restrictions in phases since 3 May 2020, to let businesses revive. The decision was made based on the satisfying outcome in controlling COVID-19.
The first group of establishments to be back in service included restaurants, food stalls, street vendors, markets, hair salons, healthcare facilities and golf courses. Consequently, the government permitted shopping malls and larger businesses to re-open. This, however, does not mean that our fight against the pandemic is over.
While the prospect for Thailand in overcoming COVID-19 may appear promising, all the roads to economic recovery hint rocky hurdles. Gurus have already forecast a bleak annual growth for Thailand and around the world. Nonetheless, all sectors are taking advantage from this “time out” to make necessary preparations for the post-COVID-19…