State braced for budget bill delay

State braced for budget bill delay

Fiscal 2020 plan faces final hurdle

Some MPs are accused of voting in favour of the budget bill without being present in the chamber. (Bangkok Post Photo)
Some MPs are accused of voting in favour of the budget bill without being present in the chamber. (Bangkok Post Photo)

The government is preparing a Plan B to brace for the possibility of a further delay in the 3.2-trillion-baht budget bill for fiscal 2020 after some members of parliament indicated they would vote in favour of the bill without being present in the chamber.

Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana said he has requested the Budget Bureau prepare a backup plan in case the months-delayed budget bill still faces a hurdle in passage.

Mr Uttama said the government will use all available measures, but he refused to disclose details.

"We have solutions, but they need to be done correctly for the government to deliberate," he said.

The budget bill is in doubt after some MPs reportedly used electronic cards to vote without being present in parliament when the House was deliberating Sections 39-55 of the bill. Such practice made House votes from Section 39 onward constitutionally invalid, threatening the status of the entire bill now being vetted by the Senate.

2020 budget expenditure is off schedule, set to start on Oct 1, 2019, because of the prolonged establishment of a coalition government. This delay has kept the government's new investment projects from starting, weighing on the country's already faltering economy.

The Bank of Thailand late last year slashed its 2020 economic growth estimate to 2.8% from 3.3% predicted earlier.

Mr Uttama said the Finance Ministry's recent forecast of 100 billion baht worth of state investment budget being doled out from January to March if the budget bill takes effect assumes that state agencies have prepared documents related to bidding in advance, allowing auctions to start immediately once the law comes into force.

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said a further delay in the 2020 budget is a big issue and related parties should be concerned that it could deal a blow to the overall economy.

Apart from the public investment budget, state enterprise outlays play a role in driving the country's economy, Mr Somkid said.

He has instructed high-ranking executives of state enterprises to ramp up investment, while the Finance Ministry is set to launch incentives to draw private sector investment.

All parties should realise the importance of pushing investment to be an engine to revitalise the economy, Mr Somkid said.

He pointed out that the central bank recently eased loan-to-value regulations, which could give a boost to investment in the property sector.

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