THAILAND will freeze retail diesel prices and subsidize cooking gas prices for the low-income groups, part of a raft of measures unveiled to provide relief to consumers hit hard by soaring energy prices.
Retail diesel prices will be capped at 30 baht ($0.9) a liter till the end of April, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha told reporters after a cabinet meeting in Bangkok on Tuesday. Beyond April, the government will only subsidize 50% of any increase in prices as the Southeast Asian nation is facing a high fiscal burden, he said.
Thailand, a net oil importer, is stepping up efforts to shield the nation’s low-income groups from the impact of the highest inflation in 13 years as the Russian war in Ukraine pushes up energy prices. The government will take necessary steps to help all sections of the society and ensure the nation emerges from the crisis without anyone being left behind, Mr. Prayuth said, adding economic recovery efforts will focus on boosting trade and investment and tourism rebound.
“We are now dealing with health and war issues. It’s a double whammy,” Mr. Prayuth said. “The government is working hard to help as many people as possible so that we survive this twin crisis.”
Mr. Prayuth’s government has pledged to boost state oil reserves, slashed excise duty on diesel and lowered the bio-fuel blending requirements temporarily to provide relief to consumers and businesses, still reeling from the pandemic. The consumer price index rose by 5.3% in February, the most since Sept. 2008, sending the core inflation reading to 1.8%. That’s well above the Bank of Thailand’s inflation target range of 1% to 3%.
The cabinet also ordered government agencies to find ways to help farmers who are hit by rising costs of fertilizers and animal feed ahead of the new planting season, Prayuth said. The foreign ministry will coordinate efforts to secure fertilizer and other supplies with other countries, he said.
Other measures unveiled to cushion the blow from rising energy prices during May-July include:
• Increasing cash assistance for cooking gas purchase to 100 baht a month from 45 baht for 3.6 million welfare card holders
• 5,500 street hawkers holding welfare cards to get 100 baht each a month as cooking gas price discount
• 250 baht monthly oil subsidy for 157,000 registered motorcycle taxis
• Maintaining retail price for natural gas for vehicles at 15.59 baht a kilogram
• Lower electricity charges during May-August period for consumers not using more than 300 units a month
• Using state oil fund to partially subsidize rising cooking gas prices
• Lowering contribution under the social security system for both employers and workers to 1% from 5%
• Approves plan to restructure 9.3 billion baht debt of 50,621 farmers
• Clears 15.85 billion baht budget to help provide guarantee for soft loans for small and medium enterprises. — Bloomberg