Thai opposition seeks to trim government spending substantially at budget bill debate
Opposition parties are seeking to slash the government’s 3.1 trillion baht spending in the 2022 fiscal year, by 100-300 billion baht, on the first day of the three-day budget bill debate in the bill’s second and final readings in parliament today.
Before the start of the debate, House Speaker Chuan Leekpai informed all MPs about the Supreme Court’s ruling suspending Thanikarn Pornpongsarote, a Palang Pracharat MP for Bangkok, from performing her duties in parliament.
The court found the National Anti-Corruption Commission allegation, that Thanikarn had breached rules of ethical conduct for MPs, by inserting the ID card of a fellow MP on his behalf at a House meeting, has valid grounds. She was suspended until there is a ruling from the court.
Pheu Thai MP for Bangkok Jirayu Huangsap, also a member of the budget scrutiny committee, said before the debate that the opposition party will seek to trim the spending budget by 10%, or about 310 billion baht, to reduce the budget deficit, claiming that many expenses, such as defence procurement of weaponry and various seminars, are a complete waste under the present circumstances.
He said he didn’t have much hope that the government would prepare a sensible budget, which will benefit the people in general, citing the limited budget for healthcare during the surge in COVID-19 infections.
Taking to the floor this morning, Move Forward party leader Pita Limjaroenrat said that the 16.3 billion baht trimmed from the budget by the House scrutiny committee is insignificant, as he believes that more cuts can be made in defence spending, investment in the construction of new provincial offices, and various other overpriced projects.
Move Forward party-list MP Sirikanya Tansakul, also a member of the Budget Scrutiny Committee, said “there is more fat that still can be shed” as she suggested a revamp of the budget structure. She pointed out that 40% of the spending is salaries for government officials and the budget increases every year, while it is doubtful that the government will achieve its revenue target for the next few years.
The budget, she said, should be structured to address the crises currently facing Thailand.
Prachachart MP Tawee Sodsong proposed a 10% cut in the 8.9 billion baht Central Fund, as only 2.7 billion baht, or 2.7% of this year’s fund has been spent, with this trend likely to continue because the government has used 1.1 trillion baht of borrowing for emergency spending instead.
He also noted that spending of the Central Fund is difficult for opposition MPs to check and is not transparent.
Tawee said that most of the Central Fund, allocated in fiscal years since 2018, was spent on military procurement, instead of being spent for the wellbeing of the people.
Democrat MP Kiat Sitthiamorn proposed a 5% percent reduction of the Central Fund, claiming that the fund for the next fiscal year has been set at 590 billion baht which, he said, is too much and almost equal to the 650 billion baht budget for investments in various development projects.
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