BANGKOK: Thailand's premier on Wednesday (May 27) urged parliament to approve the kingdom's biggest-ever stimulus package to revive an economy battered by coronavirus, which has brought tourism to a standstill, slashed exports and left millions jobless.
The 1.9 trillion baht (US$59.6 billion) package would be a much-needed financial boost for Southeast Asia's second biggest economy, which is expected to shrink by 5-6 per cent in 2020.
Members of parliament – who inaugurated a new building on Wednesday – are set to discuss three bills over the next five days covering healthcare, unemployment and a fund to stabilise markets and boost purchasing power.
The opposition Pheu Thai party has vowed to grill the ruling military-backed government – which holds a slim majority – on the bill and its handling of the epidemic.
On Wednesday Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha pleaded for the swift passage of the bill, saying the administration was currently attempting to manage the economy "using the central budget, the next year's budget, or transferring" from other areas.
"But it is not enough," Prayut told the opening session.
"To get the country back on track … we urgently need the budget of 1.9 trillion baht."
About 550 billion baht (US$17.2 billion) is expected to go to farmers and informal workers such as street vendors and those employed in massage parlours and bars.
Tourism-reliant Thailand started showing the first signs of the virus in January when Bejing prohibited its citizens from travelling abroad.
Chinese make up a majority of the kingdom's visitors.
Tourism revenues dropped by 40 per cent in the first quarter, Prayut said, and the next quarter will be even "more severe".
The virus toll, which stands at a Read More – Source