Thailand: ‘Defence’ budget under attack

  • The opposition attacked government spending plans for favouring the Defence Ministry and imposing “ineffective” economic stimulus measures, as three days of debate on the budget bill began in the House on 17 Oct 19.
  • Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha defended the budget in its first reading, insisting national security and stability were a prerequisite for economic development, and said the budget for education was still high.
  • The bill allocates the Defence Ministry about THB230bn, a THB6bn increase from fiscal year 2019, and among the highest disbursements to any ministry.
  • In the 2020 fiscal budget bill, security and defence spending has been favoured over According to the opposition, the budget hike proposed for the Defence Ministry was to help pay for arms procurement and construction projects, which would divert money away from long-term investment projects at other ministries.
  • measures to solve bread-and-butter problems affecting people’s daily lives, the opposition added.
  • The opposition also took aim at the government’s measures to improve the economy, saying cash handouts under various stimulus-package schemes during the five years of the previous coup-installed government had failed to address economic woes and combat social injustice.
  • Meanwhile, more than THB600bn of budgets accumulated in local administrative organisations nationwide cannot be scrutinised and is prone to graft, the opposition added.
  • The government has also been criticised for plans to set aside more than THB518bn for the general budget, which gives it a virtual licence to spend almost without scrutiny from the opposition. Of that amount, 96 billion has been earmarked as reserves for emergency purposes. Defending the general budget, Gen Prayut said it was set aside to pay salaries of government officials and pensions to retirees, adding agencies which request money from the general budget must submit spending details to the cabinet for approval.
  • The general budget is also used for emergency relief operations after natural disasters such as floods, he said, adding budget spending would be scrutinised by agencies.
  • Several government coalition MPs called on the government to increase the general budget for 2020, to stimulate the economy further. MPs from the government-coalition Democrat Party said cash handout schemes were not the right approach to spurring growth, and this policy should be revised.

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