B500bn loan 'breaks no law'

B500bn loan 'breaks no law'

Deputy PM rejects ex-minister's claim

The executive decree on the 500 billion baht to combat the public health crisis was approved in compliance with the law and is likely to be put up for parliamentary endorsement after the budget bill debate next week, according to the government.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said on Wednesday the executive decree, given the green light by the cabinet on May 18, broke no law.

He was responding to former finance minister Thirachai Phuvanatnaranubala, who petitioned the Supreme Administrative Court this week seeking to revoke the cabinet approval of the loan decree to cushion the financial impact of Covid-19.

Mr Thirachai claimed the mechanisms to maintain transparency and fiscal discipline had been removed and replaced with a cabinet-appointed committee authorised to select and propose projects to the cabinet.

Mr Wissanu denied Mr Thirachai's claim that the loan contravened the Fiscal Discipline Act, saying the government had run a thorough check with its legal arm, the Council of State, and found no legal violations.

Similarly intense scrutiny was also performed on the one-trillion-baht loan secured to mitigate the effects of the first and second outbreaks last year.

Mr Thirachai, who was finance minister from 2011 to 2012, also pressed to have that loan revoked.

Mr Wissanu said it was not within the authority of the Administrative Court to intervene because the decree had already been issued by the cabinet and would be debated in parliament.

Since the matter was out of the cabinet's hand, the court had no jurisdiction over the petition, Mr Wissanu said.

Mr Thirachai should have approached the Constitutional Court instead, he said.

Mr Wissanu said he expected the loan decree to be endorsed by parliament after the budget bill scheduled for a House debate from May 31-June 2.

Chief government whip Wirach Ratanasate said the budget debate would be finished next week and the loan decree likely endorsed by parliament the week after.

Paophum Rojanasakul, deputy secretary-general of the opposition Pheu Thai Party, has also weighed in to the debate over the decree.

It warned that the public debt, after being added to the 500-billion-baht loan, would surge to 9.2 trillion baht or 57% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by the end of September.

The public debt looks set to climb even higher, possibly to 63% of GDP, later in the year as the pandemic causes more financial damage, requiring more relief money and the GPD to dip, Mr Paophum said.

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