Opposition demands checks on B1tn borrowing

Opposition demands checks on B1tn borrowing

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, right, elaborates on three executive decrees to cope with the impact of Covid-19 and shore up the economy, at the parliament in Bangkok on Wednesday. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, right, elaborates on three executive decrees to cope with the impact of Covid-19 and shore up the economy, at the parliament in Bangkok on Wednesday. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)

The opposition has demanded checks and balances on the government's borrowing of 1 trillion baht to mitigate the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic and shore up the affected economy.

The opposition voiced the demand when the House considered three executive decrees the government issued to handle the pandemic and stimulate the economy.

One decree is to borrow 1-trillion-baht to control Covid-19, help affected people and operators and develop local infrastructure.

The second decree is for the Bank of Thailand to offer soft loans worth 500 billion baht to businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The third decree is to establish a 400-billion baht Corporate Bond Stabilisation Fund to enhance liquidity and stabilise the financial markets.

Opposition and Pheu Thai Party leader Sompong Amornwiwat said the government had failed to effectively cope with Covid-19 and solve consequent economic problems, and that failure had necessitated the borrowing. 

He said that the government had merely set up a scrutiny committee to oversee spending the money, whereas it was necessary for MPs to monitor expenditures to prevent corruption and guarantee maximal benefits.

Mr Sompong said that he feared that small enterprises would have difficulty accessing the soft loans while medium and large-scaled enterprises would have a better chance -- and could then relend the money to smaller operators at unfair interest rates.

Pheu Thai secretary-general Anudith Nakornthab said the government was borrowing too much considering the small number of Covid-19 patients.

He said that raising 1 trillion baht would limit the government's room for further borrowing. He urged the government to let MPs scrutinise how the money is spent and amend the three executive decrees to ensure it reaches those who need it.  

Move Forward Party MP Wirote Lakana-adisorn said that the executive decree for the 1-trillion-baht package has only seven pages of details, and his party wanted a special House committee to examine the spending.

Before the debate, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told the House that the three executive decrees were the last resort of the government to cope with the Covid-19 situation and maintain the economic security of the country.

The borrowing would not breach financial discipline because it would raise public debt to 57.6% of gross domestic product while the ceiling was set at 60%, he said.

The executive decrees were in response to urgent problems and the government would be able to pay the money back, Gen Prayut said. 


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