Govt hails fall in household debt to GDP

Govt hails fall in household debt to GDP

An applicant ‘signs’ her request for state assistance during registration that began Monday and will run until May 15. (Photo by Kitja Apichonrojarek)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has hailed a drop in Thailand’s total household debt over the past 11 years, says government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd.

He was speaking on the first day of the second round of registration for poor people who want to sign up to the government’s hand-out schemes.

The first round was held last year.

Lt Gen Sansern referred to a study by Kasikorn Research Centre which says the ratio of household debt to GDP dropped from 81.2% in 2015 to 79.9% at the end of last year.

“The prime minister stressed the drop in household debt was due to greater prudence among Thais and banks, particularly with regards to auto finance, credit cards and personal loans,” he said.

Lt Gen Sansern said Gen Prayut also encouraged Thais to spend money carefully, regularly do household accounting, find a side job and save money to avoid sinking further into debt.

Even though household debt has declined, accumulated debt remains high which could affect household expenditure.

In a bid to root out criminal activity associated with money lending, the government will take stringent measures to suppress loan sharks while encouraging poor people to register with the state so they can receive welfare, Lt Gen Sansern added.

Low-income people nationwide flocked Monday to register with three state-owned banks to claim the benefits.

The registration will continue until May 15 at the three banks — the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC), Krungthai Bank (KTB) and Government Savings Bank (GSB) — along with provincial treasury offices and district offices in Bangkok.

Those eligible to receive state welfare must be aged over 18, unemployed, and with a net income of no more than 100,000 baht a year. It is unclear how much the government expects to spend on the scheme.

On the first day, more than 100,000 people applied for registration. The Finance Ministry estimated 10-15 million people have registered so far in total.

In Bangkok, a total of 7,023 low-income people registered Monday with 43 out of 50 district offices that were assigned by City Hall to open for the registration drive.

Prachoom Langmai, 60, a motorcycle taxi driver in Nakhon Ratchasima who applied for the scheme, said he decided to apply after hearing about it on the news.

While his revenue from driving was not fixed, the cost of living goes up relentlessly, hence his decision to seek financial support, he said.

Benchawan Suksomchote, 57, a scavenger in Bangkok who applied at KTB’s City Hall branch, said she used to work for a company but was laid off.

Because of her age, she has found it impossible to find work, so she turned to collecting plastic bottles left in garbage bins and selling them, earning around 3,000 baht a month.

“I think this is a good programme and I hope to increase my income from it,” she said, adding that besides financial assistance, she would like the government to provide accommodation to the poor.

Daoruang Thongtongkam, 65, a housewife in Bangkok, said everyone likes the programme after the government handed out free money to the poor in the first round of the scheme last year.

However, she would like the state to provide more sustainable assistance to the poor so they can make a living in case there is a change in government.

Jaturong Suwanmanee, 42, resident in Betong district of Yala, said he failed to register for the first round but would not miss it this time.

“I would like to thank the government for opening the second round of registration for the poor,” he said.

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