Thai government urged to reduce defence budget to fund welfare projects
A lecturer in economics at Thammasat University is urging the government to scale down its defence spending and increase budgets to improve the livelihoods of the poor and pensioners and to stimulate the grass-root economy, in order to restore public trust and confidence, as the debate on the 3.18 trillion baht budget bill for the 2023 fiscal year begins today (Tuesday) in the Lower House.
Dr. Theepakorn Jithitikulchai, of the Faculty of Economics, said that the government still has the conventional mindset when preparing the national budget, which gives priority to permanent expenditure and defence spending, with scant attention paid to issues such as welfare for the vulnerable, students and the poor as well as investment.
The public welfare budget, he said, accounts for just 2.6% of gross domestic product (GDP) compared to at least 8% in developed countries, while the investment budget amounts to just 15% of all public spending.
The budget allocated each year to procure weaponry, such as new fighter jets, is not in line with the current situation, in which many people are suffering from economic hardship, he said, as he suggested that the defence budget this year should be cut and the money used to fund other more essential projects, such as the pension and welfare funds for low-income earners, and to stimulate grass-roots economy.
Sarng Anakot Thai party deputy leader, Santi Kiranand, a former member of the House budget scrutiny committee, admitted that some influential politicians, in the past, have often interfered with the committee, meaning that the budgets did not respond to needs of the people.
Citing the defence budget, he said the military has an additional ten-year plan to spend up to 400 billion baht on defence projects.