BMA’s Green Line debt ‘can’t be solved’

BMA’s Green Line debt ‘can’t be solved’

Prayut says caretaker cabinet's hands are tied and new government will have to make a decision

Commuters board a BTS train at the Khu Khot station on the Green Line extension in Pathum Thani. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)
Commuters board a BTS train at the Khu Khot station on the Green Line extension in Pathum Thani. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)

The overdue payment of around 50 billion baht that the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) owes to Bangkok Mass Transit System Plc (BTSC) will have to wait for a new government to resolve, the caretaker government said on Tuesday.

“We wish we could resolve this problem. We’ve tried to have it taken care of but now we have to admit it can’t be solved. Lately, multiple factors have prevented that from happening,” Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha after he met with Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda to discuss the Green Line debt, just after the weekly cabinet meeting.

Gen Prayut did not elaborate on the factors he alluded to that were impeding the government’s attempt to resolve the debt issue.

However an informed source said one was the Election Commission’s regulation limiting the ability of a caretaker cabinet to approve large budgets.

BTSC, which operates the Green Line, hopes to receive a first instalment — or about 20 billion baht — when the Bangkok Council convenes in early July, said the same source.

Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt met with BTSC chairman Keeree Kanjanapas on Monday and said he would request the BMA council’s approval of the proposed 20-billion-baht payment, said the source.

The 50-billion-baht debt has been incurred through Krungthep Thanakom (KT), a business arm of the BMA, which hired BTSC to install the electrical and mechanical systems of the Green Line extensions and operate the electric rail service, said the same source.

Since the BMA lacks the funds to pay off the entire debt, the only option is to defer a decision on the debt payment until the new government takes office, Gen Anupong said.

He said some measures will have to be adopted to ease the burden shouldered by BTSC while it continues to operate the Green Line.

Mr Chadchart said the BMA had requested via the Ministry of Interior a decision from the caretaker cabinet on the debt payment issue, but he wasn’t sure if ministers were planning to discuss it this week.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said the cabinet had not yet received any such request. He said the BMA must first decide what action should be taken on the overdue debt payment and then submit it to the cabinet for endorsement.

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