Budget bill sails through House

Budget bill sails through House

Seven Opposition members side with government in passing B3.2-trillion bill

The House of Representatives has passed the 3.2-trillion-baht budget bill for fiscal 2020 — more than three months after the fiscal year began — after a 56-hour debate.

The House voted 253-0, with 196 abstentions one uncast vote in the third and final reading on Saturday evening.

The bill will now be sent to the Senate, which will have 20 days to vet it. The Senate whip has tentatively scheduled the debate for Jan 20.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who attended the session, thanked MPs for approving the 55-section bill.

“The bill is a crucial element in steering the master plan under the National Strategy, the 12th National Economic and Social Development Plan, the national reform plan and the government’s urgent policies, which aim to integrate strategically and geographically for sustainable growth,” he said.

He pledged to take into consideration all the concerns brought up by MPs during the debate so that people benefit the most from the budget.

Based on the vote result, seven opposition MPs broke ranks by voting in favour of the government.

Five of the six New Economics Party MPs voted in favour of the bill. Only Mingkwan Sangsuwan joined the rest of the Opposition in abstaining.

Pornpimol Thammasarn, a Pheu Thai MP for Pathum Thani, also cast her vote for the government, as did Anumat Susaror, a Prachachart MP for Pattani.

Ponphum Vipatpumiprathet, a Pheu Thai MP for Bangkok, did not cast his vote.

Except for Niyom Vivattanditkul of New Economics, these MPs had earlier taken a stand with the government. By refusing to walk out, as the Opposition had decided to do during the vote to set up a House committee to study the impacts of Section 44, they helped create a quorum so coalition MPs successfully scrapped the motion.

All five Future Forward MPs who had been expelled rom the party earlier voted in favour of the bill as expected.   

A House committee cut the budget by 16 billion baht by taking into consideration compliance with the National Strategy, reform policy goals and the ability of agencies to use the funds.

The amount was then allocated to Parliament and Senate secretariat offices, the Constitutional Court, Courts of Justice, Administrative Courts, Auditor-General’s Office, Office of the Ombudsman, Attorney-General’s Office and the Fund for Education Equality.

The much-criticised 520-billion-baht contingency or central budget, most of which is at the disposal of the prime minister, remains unchanged. 

Among the ministries that saw cuts are: Defence (-1.5 billion baht to 124.4 billion), Public Health (-1.3 billion to 26.7 billion), Higher Education (-1.1 billion to 47.9 billion), Education (-909 million to 132.8 billion), and the Interior Ministry (-625 million to 288.4 billion).

The Labour Ministry was the only ministry that received an increase and it was nearly 20%, rising 11.2 billion baht to 67.7 billion.

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