Senators want debate on rice pledging

Eighty-one senators have submitted a motion to Senate Speaker Nikhom Wairatpanich seeking a general debate without a vote on the government's rice pledging scheme under Section 161 of the constitution.

Paithoon Nitiwan, an appointed senator and core member of the Group of 40, said the cabinet had approved a total budget of 405 billion baht for the rice-pledging scheme during the 2012-2013 harvest.

The last approval on Oct 4 allows the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) to additionally seek loans of 105 billion baht to 120 billion baht from state and private financial institutions, guaranteed by the Finance Ministry.

The Public Debt Management Office said this would add to the public debt which now stands at about 43% of  gross domestic product (GDP).

"This problem, if not solved within a short time, may affect the economy as a whole. Therefore, we senators want  a general debate to voice opinions and provide suggestions for the government during this parliamentary session," Mr Paiboon said.

Suwimol Wiriyawat, the Phetchaburi senator, said the rice scheme was a burden on the national budget and damaging to the rice market.

It was of concern that the government refused to heed warnings and suggestions from other people, including academics at the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA) and Thammasat University, and  insisted in continuing the scheme, she said.

Senate Speaker Nikhom said he would arrange for a general debate on this issue this month.

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