Thai central bank eases rules on $16.6 bln soft loans for smaller firms

BANGKOK, Dec 28 (Reuters) - Thailand’s central bank has further relaxed rules on its 500 billion baht ($16.6 billion) soft loan programme aimed at helping smaller firms cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Given the prolonged COVID-19 situation domestically and internationally, some small-and medium enterprise (SMEs) still have insufficient income to support their businesses, the Bank of Thailand (BOT) said in a statement issued on Monday.

The BOT adjusted its definition of business groups seeking the funding to enable SMEs to easier access the programme, which started in April as part of a bigger coronavirus response package.

The BOT also allowed SMEs to apply for the lending two times, rather than once previously, before April 18 next year, it said.

The loans programme has so far been slow to gain traction, due to what businesses say were tougher lending conditions.

The central bank has approved about 123 billion baht of loans so far.

$1 = 30.16 baht Reporting by Orathai Sriring; Editing by Martin Petty