The ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) and the United Thai Nation (UTN) Party are now involved in a tug-of-war over the ownership of the state welfare scheme, highly popular among grassroots voters, according to political analysts.
The PPRP on Tuesday promised to raise the rates of monthly allowances for state welfare cardholders to 700 baht if it returns as the government after the next general election.
But against that, PM’s Office Minister Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana on Wednesday claimed the scheme was actually the brainchild of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who is a member of the UTN.
Cardholders with an annual income of less than 30,000 baht are currently given 300 baht per month, while those with an annual income of between 30,000 and 100,000 baht receive 200 baht per month.
When the welfare scheme was launched in 2016 about 7.7 million people were eligible to receive the benefits, said Mr Thanakorn, adding that as of Jan 1, up to 13.22 million people were now covered.
More than 19.63 million people are applying for welfare in the latest round of registrations, which forms part of the transition making ID cards alone sufficient to claim benefits.
The scheme not only helps the poor but also spurred domestic spending by around 75 billion baht last year alone, said Mr Thanakorn.
Wanwichit Boonprong, a lecturer at the Faculty of Political Science, Rangsit University, described the situation between the PPRP and UTN as “a literature review on the election battlefield” to prove ownership of the scheme.
In this case, Gen Prayut might be in a slightly better position because the PPRP had never before claimed ownership of the scheme and the PM was the one who signed off on it, said Mr Wanwichit.
That is because the PPRP wouldn’t have dreamed Gen Prayut would ever move to the UTN as he has just done, he said.
Neither Gen Prayut nor PPRP leader Gen Prawit Wongsuwon have said a word about the parties’ fight to claim credit for creating the state welfare scheme.
Only their subordinates have come out to speak about the matter, he said.
Sang Anakhot Thai Party (SATP) chairman Somkid Jatusripitak, who served as a deputy prime minister overseeing economic affairs under the Prayut administration, has also claimed previously the state welfare scheme is actually his idea, according to a source.
As for a potential new source of funding for the scheme, Narumon Pinyosinwat, treasurer of the PPRP, said the party will establish a new “Fund for Society” to finance it, instead of using the state budget.
Both Thais and foreigners will be allowed to invest in the new fund, and the idea has been discussed with Ruenvadee Suwanmongkol, secretary-general of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who backed the plan, said Ms Narumon.
Paetongtarn “Ung Ing” Shinawatra, the main opposition Pheu Thai Party’s chief adviser on public participation and innovation, declined to comment on speculation the PPRP is directly competing with her party’s own pre-election pledge to raise the daily wage to 700 baht per day with these new welfare allowances.
Pheu Thai only makes promises it can actually fulfil, she said. She also said it was too soon to say if Pheu Thai would consider a political alliance with the PPRP after the election, saying its focus remains on securing a landslide victory.
Article source: https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/politics/2485794/rivals-lay-claim-to-welfare