It’s one thing to promise every citizen over the age of 16 a blockchain-based payout if you get elected. It’s quite another to then find yourselves in power and have to follow through with that policy.
That’s the situation that Thailand’s Pheu Thai now finds itself in, having promised 10,000 baht ($280) as its signature policy in the country’s recent general election.
Bizarrely, the party didn’t even win at the polls, but after the actual winner Move Forward’s candidate for prime minister was dramatically suspended from parliament by the constitutional court, it fell to second-placed Pheu Thai to attempt to form an acceptable government.
And despite the fact that offering hard cash to the electorate would be considered a very literal bribe in many countries, Pheu Thai eventually managed just that, and its new prime minister and his cabinet were sworn in earlier this week.
So how does a government party go about distributing almost 550 trillion baht?
Well, the first thing required is a digital wallet. Pheu Thai’s digital wallet scheme is intended to create a new blockchain-based payment infrastructure and stimulate the economy.
However, technology analysts have suggested that there is no need to create a new digital wallet app, and that the government “should invite existing digital wallets and mobile banking apps to join the digital money scheme.”
That may not allow Pheu Thai to implement its preferred restrictions on the hand-outs though. Oh yes… there is always a catch. Apparently, the digital money will only be spendable within a four-kilometre radius of recipients’ homes, and will only be valid for six months.
Many questions remain, such as who will perform know-your-customer (KYC) processes to verify users. There will supposedly be no need to register to access the wallet, but it seems unlikely that such a large amount of money will be distributed without knowing exactly who is receiving it.
In general though, many are positive about the potential of the new payment infrastructure, including CEO of SmartContract Blockchain Studio, Sathapon Patanakuha:
“A new digital payment infrastructure could enable the government to promote specific policies and provide subsidies to targeted sectors, such as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).”
Mr Sathapon also believes that the government could promote state projects via the new wallet to encourage adoption, although in a country with an average salary of under 100,000 baht per year, the promise of over a month’s salary will do a good job of that by itself.
Whether the scheme will connect with the Bank of Thailand’s Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) project, which is currently being piloted, remains to be Observed. As for now, does the successful roll-out of Pheu Thai’s digital money.