Govt calls on 'reserve' cash to cover aid payouts

Govt calls on 'reserve' cash to cover aid payouts

The government will disburse 50 billion baht from the Finance Ministry's "reserve money" to cover the second round of the 5,000-baht aid payouts while the third payment is likely to be funded from a central pool drawn from budget cuts to various ministries, according to the Budget Bureau.

Dechapiwat Na Songkhla, the bureau director, said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has approved the proposal to draw 50 billion baht from the reserves to fund the cash handout scheme for people affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gen Prayut last week caused a stir by saying the existing fund could only cover one month and the government would have to wait for the enforcement of legislation to borrow one trillion baht before further payments could be made.

Mr Dechapiwat said Section 45 of the Budgeting Procedure Act allows the government to draw up to 50 billion baht from reserve money for emergency use.

This sum is separate from annual expenditure and can be disbursed when the annual budget and the central fund earmarked for emergency use are not enough.

This "advanced withdrawal" is subject to cabinet approval and when the money is spent, the government must allocate a budget to pay back the fund, according to Mr Dechapiwat.

Under the 1959 Budgeting Procedure Act, the amount was capped at 100 million baht. However, in 2018 the law was amended to raises the amount to 50 billion baht.

"The country is fortunate to have a central budget in place for emergency use and be able to respond quickly to emergency requirements.

"The central budget for the 2021 fiscal year is earmarked at 99 billion baht," he said.

He said the act had last been invoked for emergency use in 1986 to address economic problems.

Mr Dechapiwat also said a bill on the transfer of unused budgets from various ministries to fight the Covid-19 pandemic will be tabled for cabinet consideration tomorrow.

The government should have around 80-100 billion baht from the budget cuts, which were drawn from unused funds for seminars, overseas trips and non-urgent investment projects.

However, a law must be passed to authorise the transfer of these funds so the money can be disbursed from June, according to the director.

The House of Representatives is scheduled to convene on May 22 and high on agenda are the executive decree to borrow 1 trillion baht, the bill on the budget reallocation, and the 2021 budget expenditure.

Earlier, the government asked the ministries to cut their budgets by 10% to create a central pool for use to battle the outbreak.

The navy recently revealed that the force's budget cut was around 4.1 billion baht, or 33% of the annual fund allocated by the government.

The Finance Ministry has paid the 5,000-baht monthly assistance to 4 million recipients out of the 27 million registrants. The government expects to screen all applications by April 23.

Meanwhile, a source at Government House said Gen Prayut's "Team Thailand" initiative is "about seeking views of those with years of experience ... on how they can work with the government to support the recovery".

"It is his intention to brainstorm ideas from these business veterans. He wants to hear from them first-hand," said the source.

The premier came up with the idea of inviting 20 of the wealthiest people in the country to join his so-called Team Thailand to help address the economic fall-out as the government considers relaxing emergency measures imposed to fight Covid-19.

They are not necessarily the country's 20 richest people, said the source.

A source close to Gen Prayut said the prime minister has had informal talks with some business leaders and what he wants is their input, not necessarily financial contributions.

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