MPs file motion to set up budget probe panel

MPs file motion to set up budget probe panel

20 coalition MPs side with opposition in demanding more scrutiny of B1.9 trillion in relief funds

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha leaves Parliament after attending a debate on the three borrowing decrees on Thursday. (Photo by Nutthawat Wicheanbut)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha leaves Parliament after attending a debate on the three borrowing decrees on Thursday. (Photo by Nutthawat Wicheanbut)

A number of coalition MPs have joined the opposition in filing a motion to set up an extraordinary panel to monitor and investigate the use of the 1.9-trillion-baht Covid-19 relief budget.

Some 20 MPs from several parties signed their names. They were from the Bhumjaithai and Democrat parties as well as the opposition parties led by Move Forward and Pheu Thai.

The core coalition party Palang Pracharath has stood its ground and refused to join. The party, as well as Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, disagreed with the idea. They reasoned there were already enough check and balance mechanisms to ensure the money was well and transparently spent. They cited as examples the National Anti-Corruption Commission and State Audit Office, as well as the House permanent panel on budget scrutiny.

Sutin Klangsaeng, the opposition whip, said after a meeting with the six opposition parties that no conclusion was reached and the parties wanted to wait for Gen Prayut's stance on whether he agreed with the panel setup and their proposal for reporting details of the spending every three months.

The votes on the three decrees are scheduled on Sunday.

The three Covid-19 borrowing decrees comprise 1 trillion baht for assistance to people, 500 billion baht for SMEs and 400 billion baht to buy corporate debentures.

Of the 1-trillion-baht borrowing decree, 45 billion is for public health aid and upgrades; 555 billion is for people, including handouts; and 400 billion is for post-Covid-19 national rehabilitation.

The decree is the target of the Opposition, which has complained about the lack of details — it contains only seven pages for such a large-scale commitment.

Under the 500-billion-baht decree to help SMEs, the Bank of Thailand would lend to commercial banks at 0.01% interest so they could re-lend to SMEs at 2%. Eligible companies are those with existing credit lines of not more than 500 million baht with commercial banks as of Dec 31, 2019. They can borrow up to 20% of their outstanding credit lines and the central bank will subsidise interest for them for the first six months.

The SMEs will have two years to spend the money. If they go bankrupt or cannot repay the loans, the government will guarantee the loans on behalf of the SMEs at the rate of 60% of the drawn amounts up to 50 million baht, and 70% for the drawn amounts of less than 50 million baht.

Under the third 400-billion-baht bill, the central bank will set up a fund to buy corporate debentures, as well as its oversight and investment panels. Eligible debentures are new debt issued to redeem existing issues that fall due. The issuers must register in Thailand and the fund cannot buy more than 20% of the value of a series. Besides, the debentures must be investment-grade. If a loss is incurred, the government will compensate the central bank for up to 40 billion baht in total. A profit goes to state coffers.       


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