NBTC bill 'open to unchecked spending'

NBTC bill 'open to unchecked spending'

TDRI president Somkiat Tangkitvanich, pictured at a public forum on Thursday, believes the draft NBTC bill opens loopholes for unchecked budget spending by the government.
TDRI president Somkiat Tangkitvanich, pictured at a public forum on Thursday, believes the draft NBTC bill opens loopholes for unchecked budget spending by the government.

A major amendment is needed to the draft National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) bill to prevent political intervention, says an independent think tank.

Somkiat Tangkitvanich, president of the Thailand Development and Research Institute, said the draft bill might not solve chronic problems of the telecommunications and broadcasting industries.

The bill is being finalised by the Council of State before being submitted to the cabinet for consideration and then passed to the National Legislative Assembly for endorsement.

The draft bill is one of 10 proposed by the Information and Communication Technology Ministry.

"The draft opens loopholes for unchecked budget spending by the government," Mr Somkiat said.

Under the bill, the NBTC is required to allocate 25% of spectrum auctions plus another 25% of licensing fee revenue into the digital economy fund.

The fund will also be used to develop the country's telecom infrastructure as well as provide financial support to public and private firms that invest in infrastructure development and create innovative services.

"The bill needs to be amended to ensure greater transparency and efficiency as well as strengthen consumer protection," Mr Somkiat said.

He said using money from the digital economy fund required parliamentary approval.

This would open loopholes for corruption, as any public or private companies with strong political connections could enjoy the benefit of the budget spending.

Mr Somkiat also said if the planned 4G spectrum auctions took place this year as scheduled, the NBTC could contribute almost 20 billion baht to the digital economy fund over the next two years.

Assoc Prof Nualnoi Treerat of Chulalongkorn University's economics faculty agreed the draft NBTC bill lacked consumer protection elements.

However, Mr Somkiat said he supported the part of the bill that retained the role of the NBTC as an independent regulatory body.

The draft bill clearly identifies the different roles of the National Digital Economy Committee, which has been formulated for drafting national digital-related economic policies, while the NBTC will still act as a regulatory body, he said.

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