Senator backs siphoning ministry budgets to fight outbreak

Senator backs siphoning ministry budgets to fight outbreak

Bangkok Mass transit Authority applies social-distancing measures on its buses. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)
Bangkok Mass transit Authority applies social-distancing measures on its buses. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)

A senator on Tuesday voiced support for the government's plans to siphon 10% of the fiscal 2020 budgets of each ministry, and to issue an executive decree to borrow more to fight the coronavirus pandemic and stabilise the economy.

His backing followed Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak's comments on Monday that the government would appropriate 10% of the fiscal 2020 funds allocated to the ministries to add to the contingency fund to battle the outbreak.

According to Mr Somkid, the fund will be managed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha under the powers given to him by the emergency decree.

Senator Kamnoon Sidhisamarn, a previous member of the National Reform Steering Assembly, said on Tuesday the budget transfer and the borrowing are necessary to help cushion the economy at this time and the government can proceed without parliament's approval.

While Section 140 and Section 141 of the constitution require that a budget spending plan must be enacted by lawmakers, the Covid-19 pandemic justifies extraordinary measures and an executive decree can be issued under Section 172 of the charter, he said.

Section 172 empowers the government to act without approval during a national emergency. However, it needs to secure approval once the emergency has passed.

Mr Kamnoon said that convening the House at the current time is not recommended due to the risk of infection.

"The funds allocated in the 2020 spending plan don't reflect the actual situation, as we can see from fund-raising efforts to buy medical supplies and equipment for hospitals. I think the government can issue a decree to allocate 10% of funds [from each ministry] to fight Covid-19.

"And if the money isn't enough I propose that an executive decree be issued to allow the Finance Ministry to borrow money," he said.

Government chief whip Wirat Rattanaset said the government is authorised to issue an executive decree to make an across-the-board reduction in state budgets to fund measures to contain the outbreak and stabilise the economy.

However, the government will have to inform parliament of the actions taken as soon as parliament convenes again in May. 

Mr Wirat added that there is so far no proposal seeking an extra-ordinary session but, if necessary, the Suriyan room inside parliament is large enough to accommodate up to 1,000 people in accordance with social-distancing protocols.

Earlier, Sukit Atthopakorn, an adviser to House Speaker Chuan Leekpai, said the House will reopen on May 22 but the speaker has the authority to cancel the meeting depending on the circumstances next month.

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