The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has confirmed that it is closely examining the government’s 10,000-baht digital money handout and is inviting more economic experts to join its scrutiny of the project.
In a statement released on Friday, the anti-graft body said it was duty-bound to assess whether the project, a core economic policy of the governing Pheu Thai Party, risks becoming a form of policy-oriented corruption, as some critics have warned.
Although precise details of how the scheme will work and how much it will cost are not yet available, there have been growing concerns, especially among senators, that the project could jeopardise the government’s financial security, the statement said.
Consequently, the NACC said it felt the urgent need to respond to these concerns and take action by looking more closely into the policy.
The statement said the NACC did a preliminary analysis of the digital wallet programme based on existing information, including the government policy statement presented in parliament on Sept 11-12.
The investigation began after Suwana Suwanjuta, an NACC member, was invited to attend a Q&A session about the programme, organised by the Senate on Oct 10.
In a related development, former senator Rosana Rositrakul on Thursday filed a petition with the State Audit Office, asking it to scrutinise and suspend the scheme, saying it is potentially damaging.
The government aims to give every Thai aged over 16 years 10,000 baht in digital money via a “super app” that will be developed for the purpose. The programme could cost up to 560 billion baht, though proponents say it could be scaled down so that the money goes only to people who really need it.
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has said that the multiplier effect from spending could help improve GDP growth to 5% next year, and extra taxes collected would help offset the programme’s cost.
Paetongtarn Shinawatra, who is expected to become the new leader of the Pheu Thai Party, has called on those waiting for the handout to materialise to be patient while the cabinet sorts out details of its implementation.
She was responding to an admission by Deputy Finance Minister Julapun Amornvivat on Thursday that the programme would not start on Feb 1 as expected, as more time is needed to create a secure system.
The digital wallet is not a new idea, according to a post on X (Twitter) by Sirikanya Tansakun, deputy leader of the Move Forward Party. She said that a very similar programme was tried in Japan in 1999, and may have been the inspiration for the Pheu Thai policy.
Noting that a follow-up study showed the Japanese programme had little impact, she urged the government to reassess the project.
Acting Democrat Party Jurin Laksanawisit, meanwhile, said he would continue pushing for scrutiny of the digital money scheme through the House committee on economic development. This is because the government still can’t say clearly how the project will work and what funding sources will be used.