Chamber calls for urgent state aid

Chamber calls for urgent state aid

Workers in hotel and tourism sectors especially at risk as Covid-19 batters economy

Staff pack up inside Chu Chocolate Bar & Cafe in Bangkok, a day after it closed permanently because of the pandemic.
Staff pack up inside Chu Chocolate Bar & Cafe in Bangkok, a day after it closed permanently because of the pandemic.

The Thai Chamber of Commerce’s chief has voiced growing concerns about business operators who have been decimated by the continued Covid-19 outbreak, forcing them to throw in the towel.

He called on the government to earmark a portion of the 500-billion-baht new loan decree to take care of workers, especially in the battered hotel and tourism sectors.

Sanan Angubolkul, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said despite the government’s ongoing relief measures, local businesses continue to shut down and the pace is accelerating.

“The government’s latest stimulus measures, which include cash handouts worth a combined 140 billion baht, are insufficient,” he said.

“The government urgently needs to allocate a budget from the new 500-billion-baht loan decree to assist workers, both through business operators and directly to workers, especially in the hotel and tourism sectors, which are in dire need of financial liquidity and easy access to soft loans.”

Mr Sanan warned that without urgent and appropriate assistance, further closures of hotels and tourism-related operators are anticipated and it will be tough for them to recover once the country reopens.

The chamber also called on the government to expedite disbursement of the new 500-billion-baht loan by the fourth quarter this year or the first quarter of 2022 at the latest, as well as reinstate the Shop Dee Mee Khuen tax rebate scheme.

He said the shopping tax rebate scheme is more convenient and effective than the e-voucher system because buyers know immediately how much they are eligible to receive via a tax deduction.

Shop Dee Mee Khuen offers a tax deduction for individual taxpayers of up to 30,000 baht when purchasing goods or services.

The government used the scheme to promote shopping between Oct 23 and Dec 31, 2020.

However, Mr Sanan suggested the tax deduction should be raised to 35,000 baht to make the scheme more enticing.

He also agreed with the government’s plan to expand the tourism sandbox programme to cover nine areas in addition to Phuket, saying the reopening scheme will help boost economic recovery.

A sign at Chu Chocolate Bar & Cafe on June 1 indicates it is closed permanently.

In a separate development, Chatrchai Tuongratanaphan, vice-president of the Thai Retailers Association (TRA), said the third wave of the pandemic has hurt retail confidence, leading retailers to sack more than 25% of their employees as they face a financial crunch.

He cited the latest survey by the TRA, which found some retail operators are trying their best to retain employees, but fear they are unlikely to do so for much longer.

Many retail operators also said their working capital is about to be depleted and their liquidity will not last more than six months.

Regarding the government’s latest stimulus measure called Ying Chai Ying Dai (the more you spend, the more you get), which offers cashback e-vouchers to people to encourage them to purchase food, products and services via the government’s e-wallet programme, many retailers said their sales are unlikely to increase much because it is a complicated and inconvenient spending mechanism.

They suggested the government allow buyers to pay via credit card in addition to an e-wallet.

Proposing moves to stimulate spending, the association urged the government to expedite nationwide vaccine distribution, speed up the 50% co-payment subsidy scheme for employees’ monthly salary for retailers affected by the pandemic, and rev up cooperation between commercial banks and malls to facilitate loan approval for very small suppliers.

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