B300bn in budget obligations paid out

B300bn in budget obligations paid out

Political holdup stalls fiscal 2020 progress

The central station in Bang Sue district, a key big-ticket project, is expected to start services in 2021.
The central station in Bang Sue district, a key big-ticket project, is expected to start services in 2021.

The government has been able to disburse 300 billion baht in obligation budget during the protracted delay in passing the 3.2-trillion-baht fiscal 2020 budget.

The investment budget for fiscal 2020 is 600 billion baht, of which half is already committed to contractors and the rest is for new projects, said Fiscal Policy Office director-general Lavaron Sangsnit.

He said 50 billion baht out of the 300 billion baht in obligation budget was doled out from October to December of 2019.

According to budget law, the government is permitted to draw down only regular and obligation budget based on the previous year's budget in the event that the legislative process of the annual budget bill is incomplete before the fiscal year starts.

The annual budget for fiscal 2020 was due to start on Oct 1, 2019 but was hampered by the lengthy government installation and legislative process.

The budget bill is facing further delay because the validity of the bill rests on a court ruling after some lawmakers' ID cards were alleged to have been used during the vote in the lower chamber while the legislators themselves were absent.

The budget is estimated to face two months of further delay into May.

Public spending is pivotal to shoring up Thailand's struggling economy amid a spate of headwinds, including tepid exports, drought conditions and China's ban on outbound tour groups amid efforts to contain the spread of the new coronavirus strain.

Mr Lavaron said the Finance Ministry will soon seek the Budget Bureau's nod to raise the ceiling of the regular budget to be taken out as the bill continues to be postponed.

The ministry wants to raise the cap to 75% from the 50% that is expected to be depleted by March, he said, adding that the ceiling could be increased to 100% if necessary.

Most state investment budget is withdrawn in the third and fourth quarters of the fiscal year or from April onwards, Mr Lavaron said.

Meanwhile, finance permanent secretary Prasong Poontaneat said Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana will summon related state agencies soon to discuss the impact of the delayed budget expenditure and determine measures for dealing with the new virus.

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