Welfare cards can be abused to buy cigarettes, liquor

Discounted products will be available at government “Blue Flag” shops for registered e-welfare cardholders. (Photo by the Commerce Ministry)

The comptroller-general has admitted the government cannot prevent holders of e-welfare cards using them to buy cigarettes and alcohol.

The system was unable to prevent holders from using the monthly welfare subsidy to buy cigarettes, liquor or beer, Comptroller-General Suttirat Rattanachot said on Wednesday.

However, the Comptroller-General’s Department would ask holders and vendors alike to refrain from such abuse, and promote their use for the purchase of necessary consumer products.

The department will be in charge of the transfer of the government’s cost-of-living subsidy to 11.67 million registered poor people through the e-cards, which are to be distributed on Sept 21 and will be usable from Oct 1 onwards.

In the future, the system may be updated to record the items that cardholders purchase, Ms Suttirat said.

Deputy Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong said on Wednesday that 8,000 grocery shops nationwide would participate in the scheme. Cardholders could buy consumer products at 15-20% discount at these shops.

Major manufacturers such as Sahapat, Unilever, Colgate-Palmolive (Thailand), Procter & Gamble, and Berli Jucker would supply products at discount to the participating shops, he said.

Learning equipment, school uniforms and chemical fertilisers would also be among the discount products, he said.

Cardholders will receive subsidies of 200-300 baht a month, depending on their income, and card readers will be installed at participating shops.

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