BANGKOK - Thailand plans 43.5 billion baht ($1.44 billion) of additional stimulus to boost domestic consumption and an increase in benefits for local travel, officials said on Wednesday, as the government tries to revive a flagging, pandemic-hit economy. Some 22.5 billion baht will be offered to 5 million new consumers, or 3,500 baht ($115.78) each, under the current co-payment scheme. The 10 million consumers who had already signed up would get a further 500 baht, finance ministry official Pornchai Theeravet told a briefing. The new package would be given in small amounts from January to March, while 1,500 baht would be offered to some 14 million low-income earners, he said, as "New Year gifts". Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Yuthasak Supasorn said the government would increase benefits in an earlier programme to boost domestic tourism in the absence of foreign visitors, and offer a new subsidy aimed at encouraging travel for seniors. The stimulus, agreed by the government's coronavirus economic task force on Wednesday, will still need cabinet approval. It will be financed by the government's planned 1 trillion baht borrowing aimed at mitigating the impact of the pandemic on an economy the government predicts will contract by 6% this year, as tourism is far away from recovering. Thailand may not see foreign tourists numbers return to a pre-pandemic level of 40 million arrivals until 2024, Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said earlier on Wednesday. ($1 = 31.20 baht) ($1 = 30.2300 baht) REUTERS
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