THE FUNDS in the government’s welfare card held by 14.5 million poor people could turn into cash for three months, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday.
A Cabinet meeting in Lampang province approved the proposal after many cardholders asked they be allowed to withdraw cash rather than using the card to only purchase goods from specific blue-flag stores, the PM told reporters.
Those who earn less than Bt30,000 per year and hold a Bt300 card can withdraw Bt200, while those who earn between Bt30,000 to Bt100,000 per annum and hold a Bt200 card can get Bt100, Government Spokesman Puttipong Punnakanta explained.
The remaining Bt100 in the card can only be used at the blue-flag shops, he said, adding that the scheme will be in effect between February and April.
The Cabinet has also agreed to extend the job-training scheme to June 2019, after it expired at the end of 2018, the spokesman said.
The government has also earmarked an additional Bt4.3 billion for the job-training scheme, he said, adding that though 4.1 million people had registered to learn new skills, only a million had completed their qualifications.
The cash handout project called the Pracharat scheme was initiated by the junta-backed government and has been criticised by politicians and observers as a populist policy intended to win the hearts and minds of the poor in the lead-up to the 2019 election. Critics say the project aims for short-term political gains, rather than creating an effective social-welfare scheme.
Prayut responded to the criticism by saying his government has efficiently utilised the national budget since taking power after the May 2014 coup, and the scheme has helped improve the lives of certain people. The government will have additional measures for people who have been left behind.