The private sector offers ideas on lifting restrictions, rejigging the economy

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After meeting with representatives of the private sector, Thosaporn Sirisumphand,secretary-general of the National Economic and Social Development Board, said it was concluded that measures for economic recovery can be split into three: immediate action; proposals that need relevant government agencies’ approval; and long-term measures.  

Actions that can immediately be implemented include relief for farmers and employing daily wage earners for more than four hours a day.  

Measures that will have to be discussed with relevant government agencies include proposals such as reducing employers’ social security contributions from 4 per cent to 1 per cent for 180 days, granting businesses tax benefits for expenses incurred by Covid-19 prevention measures and extending procurement contracts with the government, etc.  

Long-term measures include things such as amending the law to support an e-government and establishing a farmer-funded joint venture of Bt50 billion.  

Kalin Sarasin, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, suggested that provinces and businesses should be split into three types when it comes to lifting restrictions.  

For instance, green provinces where no Covid-19 cases have been reported for 14 days should be allowed to open low-risk businesses that do not require contact, such as department stores and restaurants provided social-distancing measures are used. Currently there are 32 such provinces.  

The same measures can be applied to yellow provinces, where there are not many Covid-19 cases, although this will be left to the governor.  

In highly infected red provinces, no businesses should be opened.  

He added that restrictions should first be lifted in just three green provinces (two small provinces and one major province with a large business sector) as a test for two weeks.  

If there are no new cases, then the government can consider entering the first phase of lifting restrictions on businesses in green and yellow provinces for one month, to see there are any infections.  

The second phase will open both green and yellow provinces simultaneously for a month to assess infection levels, while Phase III will open businesses in all provinces.  

However, for businesses to open, operators must follow strict sanitation standards. For instance, customers in shopping malls and restaurants must maintain at least a metre’s distance, each mall and eatery must limit the number of visitors allowed in and hand-sanitising gel must be provided at regular intervals. Each customer’s temperature must be measured before entering the area, must wear a mask at all times and no activity is allowed.  

Businesses failing to comply with these requirements will be shut down.  

Also, at least 50 percent of people should continue working at home in both private and public agencies.  

Prapat Panyachatiraksa, president of the National Farmers Council (NFC), suggested that as a relief measure, the government pay Bt5,000 to each agricultural household for at least three months or until the situation returns to normal because the agricultural sector is also affected by Covid-19. Thailand has some 8 million to 9 million households in the farming sector.  

It has also been proposed that the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives suspend farmers’ loan repayment for at least 12 months.  

The government should also open online platforms to help farmers sell their products as well as negotiate an extension of payment period for farmers who have taken loans from private financial institutions.  

Financial subsidies for farmers can come from the Bt135 billion that the Finance Ministry has earmarked to help those affected by Covid-19.