The national Social Security Office on Wednesday (July 21) announced a slew of income relief measures for those in dark red zones suffering financial distress. The support ranges from B2,500, to B5,000 for some, and B7,500 to B10,000 for others, depending on their circumstances. To see the full range of financial and income relief measures being offered (in Thai), click here.
Of course all help should go to those in need and suffering due to circumstances beyond their control, but these latest measures announced by the SSO came just nine days after the “not a lockdown” measures were brought into effect.
In contrast, Phuket’s entire entertainment industry, including simple pubs and bars, have been shut down since April, with not one iota of special support for them despite being singled out to be effectively placed in a red zone all their own. The only support for those businesses, and their now out-of-workers, in Phuket have been the relief measures offered to any businesses and workers in the country suffering due to the “economic situation”, which is now recognised by even state news agencies as an economic crisis
As any business owner and staffer in Phuket already knows, and long recognised by Phuket’s own leading tourism industry figures, the reality of being approved the soft loans and relief measures has been a lot more difficult than any government officials has wanted to publicly admit – and people in Phuket’s entertainment industry are not the only ones suffering, as confirmed by the ongoing efforts by the much needed One Phuket food relief campaign and the relief efforts organised by Phuket Provincial Administration Organisation (PPAO, or OrBorJor). The latter is well noted as it was launched under a push by Rewat Areerob, who was elected to the position of PPAO President, not by any officials appointed by Bangkok now serving at the Phuket Provincial Office.
It’s not as if the national government doesn’t know how deep the financial crisis is hurting people. According to the Bank of Thailand itself, Thailand’s household debt in the first quarter of this year increased to B14.1 trillion, or 90.5% of gross domestic product (GDP). Yet the powers that be have extended the Ying Chai Ying Dai (the more you spend, the more you get) scheme, aimed at spurring public spending, from the end of September to the end of November. That only works for those who still have money to spend.
As for the Phuket Sandbox scheme, no one expected hordes of tourists to come and the ongoing spate of infections elsewhere has not helped. Even Yuthasak Supasorn, Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), before the Sandbox launch on July 1 admitted that number of arrivals would be low.
The goal was use Phuket just as a test. There was no secret in that. But even the TAT’s much touted 18,000 arrivals in the first month has taken an almighty hit. As of yesterday the TAT itself reported that as of Friday (July 23) 10,209 people had arrived in Phuket under the scheme since its launch. They now have seven days to make up the other 43% of their own target.
With their own figures proving how little help the Sandbox scheme is providing, officials are keeping the spotlight sharply on the Sandbox figures and ignoring the continuing dire state of the island’s economy as if hope will put food on the table. By national officials’ own admission, before the Sandbox scheme was launched Phuket was suffering deep financial distress, and today they are still reporting in figures that the fruits of the Sandbox scheme have yet to be realised. Meanwhile, there appears to be an understanding among officials that local people will not notice this odd duality, as if they don’t mention it, the problem won’t exist.
Yet, following the speed of relief now coming for those living in or around the capital, it’s amazing how fast the central government rolls out financial relief measures when the people suffering are right on their doorstep. Perhaps the powers that be don’t like looking at bare-faced reality on their drive to work. For many people in Phuket, after 18 months, it’s just another day.
There are growing rumblings of dissatisfaction in Phuket with the central government’s antics throughout the crisis that are brewing into something the national figures might want to avoid. Phuket traditionally has not been an overly political province, unlike some provinces in the Northeast. Phuket people rarely take to the streets to voice their grievances, but that time may be coming.