Thai parliament approves 500 billion baht borrowing to fight COVID-19
Thailand’s House of Representatives approved an executive decree today (Thursday), authorizing the Finance Ministry to borrow up to 500 billion baht for the fight against COVID-19, assistance for people affected by the disease and for economic rehabilitation.
The decree passed the first reading in the House, after two days of debate, with 270 votes in favour and 196 against, with one abstention and two who refused to vote. The loan is divided into 30 billion baht for the Ministry of Public Health, for its efforts to contain the pandemic, 300 billion baht for the rehabilitation of people affected by the pandemic and 170 billion baht for business rehabilitation.
Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith told MPs that, since the first wave of the pandemic last year, the government has rolled out several economic stimulus packages to help the people, at the grass roots level in particular, and businesses, in order to boost domestic consumption and to keep the economy running.
Regarding concerns raised over rising public debt, the finance minister said that, under the current abnormal situation, the limit on public borrowing, which is capped at 60% of GDP, may need to be reconsidered, with the ability of a country to service the debt to be taken into consideration.
Meanwhile, Finance Permanent Secretary Krisda Jinavijarana said that, with the House’s approval of the previous one trillion baht borrowing executive decree, Thailand’s economic growth rate will contract by 6.3%, instead of 8.3% projected by the World Bank, or 7.7% projected by the IMF.
Before the vote today, Pheu Thai MP for Nan province, Dr. Cholnan Srikaew, took to the floor to say that he does not think the government’s attempts to fight COVID-19 pandemic is on the national agenda, as claimed by the government, but is, in his opinion, a national burden, due to the government’s incompetence in handling the contagion, as evident in the poor management of vaccine procurement and mass inoculations.
If the government were a doctor, he said their licence would have been revoked a long time ago.
Dr. Cholnan said that the 500 billion baht borrowing should only be used to fight the contagion, within one year, while all the other 40,000 economic rehabilitation projects proposed in for 500 billion baht borrowing should be set aside and implemented with funding from the normal budget.
He then urged members of the public to take legal action against the prime minister for his alleged complete failure to address the pandemic, causing deaths and damage to the people.