THE National Village Fund plans to inject Bt15 billion into the grassroots economy next month in a bid to shore up consumption in rural areas amid declining prices for farm products and rising household debt.
The National Village and Urban Community Fund Office, which allocates the funding under the scheme, is screening investment projects proposed by villagers ahead of a July 31 deadline for submissions, Natee Khlibtong, secretary-general of the fund, said yesterday.
“We expect to allocate a total of Bt15 billion in August to village funds nationwide and the funding will generate income for local people,” he said.
Each of the 79,593 funds is expected to gain about Bt200,000.
The fresh funding is part of an economic stimulus package at the community level after the government injected Bt35 billion into the National Village Fund last year.
Natee said villagers last year invested in about 20,000 community shops, 12,000 community markets and 11,000 drinking-water production facilities with the help of the funding.
Villagers are facing falling prices for a number of farm products, including rubber sheets, rice, palm oil and pineapples.
Non-performing loans of the village funds are estimated to be at 4 per cent of the total, said Natee, adding this was no cause for concern.
After 16 years of operation, the combined financial asset of village funds are estimated to be worth Bt300 billion, of which Bt200 billion are government handouts. They have about 13 million members.
Natee said his office had made improvements in the auditing of the funds. Some 381 independent auditors have been recruited so far to pore over the balance sheets. However, he conceded that was just 10 per cent of the target number it had for auditors.
He plans to set up coordination centres in every province in order to improve the performance of the funds. The village funds have been acting as village banks by providing microcredit to its members.
However, the current government has also tasked with funds taking part in rural development projects, and more investment projects are expected over the next few years, Natee added.
Meanwhile, a survey conducted by NIDA Poll found that Thai households have more debts and reduced savings, said Natta Vinijayapak, its chairperson, said yesterday at a separate news conference.
-According to poll, which was aimed at gauging the savings and debts of people in the first half of this year, 45.15 per cent of responded had a monthly income of Bt26,469 against expenditure of Bt21,606.
This finding raises concern over inadequate savings, especially with the country’s ageing population. Only 51.65 per cent of people have saved enough to cover living expenses, while 48.79 per cent have enough to cover emergencies only. Of those who could save money, only 12.58 per cent had been saving for retirement.
Illustrating the problem of inadequate savings is that 68.10 per cent of the respondents had an average debt of Bt565,302. Almost 60 per cent of debtors have to repay by monthly instalments the goods and services they have acquired.
Surapol Opasatien, chief executive officer of National Credit Bureau Co, said total household debts in the first quarter of this year were Bt11.4 trillion, equivalent to 78.6 per cent of gross domestic product.
In order to provide consulting services to those who have excessive debts, the Bureau has launched the websites www.thaidebtmoney.com and www.facebook.com/thaidebtmoney.