Welfare card to spur sales at local Thong Fah shops

Low-priced consumer products for sale under the state's Pracha Rat scheme. The government expects the new welfare smart card to benefit low-priced shops.

The government's welfare and subsidy scheme for the poor is expected to create more than 30 billion baht a year in circulating cash at local stores, a liquidity boost that should help the grassroots economy.

Based on the assumption that each state welfare cardholder will spend 300 baht a month at Thong Fah Pracha Rat low-priced stores, and with 600 cardholders in each tambon, an estimated 180,000 baht in sales will be generated from the scheme at each local store, said Suttirat Rattanachot, director-general of the Comptroller-General's Department.

There are about 6,000 Thong Fah Pracha Rat stores across the country, with the number expected to rise to 20,000 in the future, Ms Suttirat said.

The cabinet on Aug 29 approved a new aid package worth 41.9 billion baht for low-income earners, providing monthly subsidies for buying low-priced consumer products at Thong Fah Pracha Rat and other designated shops.

The package includes allowances for rides on public buses and trains and subsidised utility bills. The scheme is scheduled to come into force on Oct 1, the start of fiscal 2018. The scheme's recipients who earn under 30,000 baht a year will receive the monthly living allowance of 300 baht and those earnings in a range of 30,000 to 100,000 baht per year will get 200 baht a month for living allowance to buy basic needs at the participating shops.

The package will be offered to 11.7 million qualified low-income earners who registered with the state agency. A total of 14.1 million low-income earners have registered this year with the government, up from 8.27 million in 2016.

The scheme's recipients will receive smart cards that will contain their personal information and let them access state assistance such as subsidised transport, utility bills, staple goods to be bought at Thong Fah Pracha Rat shops, student uniforms, stationery and fertiliser.

Ms Suttirat said the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority has installed reader machines for the state welfare cards in 800 of the 2,600 public buses, while 655 machines have been installed at terminals of Transport Co Ltd and stations of the State Railway of Thailand.

Electric train stations in Bangkok are in the process of installing machines, she said.

The scheme's recipients will also receive 500 baht worth of transport fares each month.

Krisada Chinavicharana, director-general of the Fiscal Policy Office, said those who were rejected as scheme recipients can appeal by Sept 29.


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