25 July 2024

Opposition parties are gearing up to grill the government over the 3.18 trillion baht budget bill for the 2023 fiscal year, with the aim of derailing it, scheduled to be debated in the House from tomorrow (Tuesday) until June 2nd.

Deputy chief opposition whip and Pheu Thai MP in Ubon Ratchathani Somkid Chuekong said yesterday that the Pheu Thai party has initially agreed to reject the bill, adding that other opposition parties share a similar opinion.

He said that, if the budget bill sails through its first reading in the Lower House, opposition parties will join the House budget scrutiny committee to cut budget allocations which it deems to be unnecessary.

Future Forward party leader Pita Limjaroenrat has likened the budget bill to a sick elephant, which is unable to adapt to changing circumstances, pointing out that the Central Fund has been allocated the largest chunk of funding, estimated at over 500 billion baht, but about 80% of the fund is intended for the pensions and medical expenses for active and retired government officials.

Regarding the budgets for state enterprises, Pita noted that the Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives has been allocated the largest of all state enterprises, but the fund is meant to be used to subsidise the farming sector, instead of being used for the rehabilitation of the country.

Pachara Naripthaphan, of Pheu Thai’s economic working committee, pointed out that permanent expenditure in the 2023 fiscal year, about 2.39 trillion baht, is an increase of 1.01%, or 23.9 billion baht, on the current fiscal year.

As the national economy is still struggling, he said that permanent expenditure should be reduced, not increase, so that there will be more money for economic development.

He also pointed out that the defence budget, estimated at 197 billion baht, should be further scaled back, as there is no need for expensive procurements, such as submarines, F-35 fighter jets or other military hardware.

Patchara also noted that the 100 billion baht earmarked for payment of loan interest is insufficient to cover the interest payments on the 10 trillion baht in debt, created by the government over the past eight years in office, adding that the minimum amount of interest on loans should be about 200 billion baht.

Noting that the budget for the 2023 fiscal year is about 100 billion baht less than the budget for 2021, he said this is an indicator that revenue collection has fallen short of targets and the economy is shrinking.

He said what matters most is not, however, the amount, either big or small, but how efficient the budget is managed and spent. He called upon all MPs to reject the budget bill.

Deputy Prime Minister and Democrat party leader Jurin Laksanawisit said today that he is, however, optimistic that the budget will sail through its first reading, as the government still commands the majority vote in the Lower House.