Vow for Thong Fah scheme to continue

Sontirat: Project to be sustainable

The government has vowed to continue its welfare scheme offering cheaper consumer products to low-income earners despite claims of irregularities and corruption in the use of the welfare cards.

Deputy Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong said the ministry will put a tighter surveillance on the operations of the Thong Fah (Blue Flag) shops, which sell cut-price products to consumers using the smart cards after reports of rampant corruption since the project kicked off on Oct 1.

The surveillance would help the ministry tackle the problems that some state welfare card holders have misused the cards, Mr Sontirat said during a survey of the shops in Din Daeng district, which has the largest number of low-income earners in Bangkok.

“We are trying to make this project to sustainable that is worth for the next government to continue as it supports the poor and by extension the local economy,” he said.

Mr Sontirat’s comments came after some critics spoke out against the projects after finding that some of the welfare recipients did not use the card to buy goods at designated shops with the electronic data capture machines. Instead they used the card, into which the government transfers 200-300 baht a month, to exchange for cash at some corrupt shops.

Mr Sontirat said the government would revoke the right of Thong Fah shops immediately if it was found cheating or misusing the cards.

“The Prime Minister has insisted that I monitor the operation of the project very closely to make sure that it is transparent and worth further investment to support the poor,” he said.

Mr Sontirat said the government expects the budget of 40 billion baht being extended to the poor via the state welfare cards to help circulate up to 200 billion baht of money in the system, which would support the local economy eventually.

More than 11 million low-income earners have the welfare smart cards.

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