In a bid to safeguard the financial well-being of elderly citizens, the Thailand Consumers Council (TCC) has passionately called upon the newly-formed government to reconsider a recently imposed regulation. This regulation, which has sparked significant debate, restricts a segment of elderly individuals from receiving their monthly allowances. The TCC proposes a compelling alternative — a restoration of the universal pension scheme with a substantial increase in the monthly allowance, set at 3,000 baht.
According to the TCC’s stance, the current pension scheme ought to be fortified rather than curtailed. The council asserts that every senior citizen is entitled to a government-provided monthly allowance that assures a respectable standard of living during their twilight years. The proposed allowance of 3,000 baht per month is projected to elevate elderly citizens just beyond the poverty threshold, which is currently established at 2,800 baht per person by the National Economic and Social Development Council.
This regulatory change, which came into effect on August 12, aims to grant monthly allowances exclusively to elderly individuals facing income inadequacy in meeting their daily expenses. It’s noteworthy that those currently receiving such allowances remain unaffected, as the alteration is pertinent only to individuals reaching the age of 60 after the regulation’s implementation.
As the debate gains momentum, the National Health Commission Deputy Secretary-General, Asst Prof Weerasak Putthasri, emphasizes that securing a basic income for the elderly must be a central national priority. He fervently contends that monthly allowances should be regarded as an inherent right, impervious to the scrutiny of means-testing.
Simultaneously, insights from Katikar Tipayalai, a respected member of Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Economics, inject further vigor into the discourse. Citing a revealing study, Tipayalai underscores that an astonishing 90% of elderly individuals are devoid of substantial savings, and only a mere 9% possess the means to cover their expenses over a five-year horizon. This predicament underscores the vital necessity of state-sponsored welfare. Presently, a staggering 11 million individuals aged 60 and above avail themselves of monthly allowances, a program that carries an annual expenditure of 88 billion baht. Earmarking an elevated allowance of 3,000 baht would necessitate a substantial financial allocation of 400 billion baht.
Nevertheless, Katikar Tipayalai optimistically posits that this financial investment could trigger an impressive economic stimulus, potentially propelling up to 600 billion baht in consumer spending and concurrently generating increased tax revenue. She advocates for a twofold approach: prudent budget restructuring and the elevation of the value-added tax (VAT) rate for luxury goods and services, all aimed at buttressing the pension fund. By increasing the VAT rate for such commodities and services, with even a marginal 1% hike, the scheme could potentially accrue an additional 70-100 billion baht in funding.
As the government grapples with these critical considerations, the fate of the elderly population’s financial security remains at the forefront of national deliberations, calling for a balanced approach that aligns both economic and humanitarian imperatives.