Senate okays bill as govt readies spending splurge

Senate okays bill as govt readies spending splurge

The budget bill for the 2020 fiscal year should be published in the Royal Gazette next month or by April, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said.

The bill, which was passed by the Senate on Friday, will be sent to the cabinet for scrutiny before it is submitted to His Majesty the King for endorsement.

Mr Wissanu also thanked the Upper House for voting so quickly on the much-delayed bill. The Senate voted 215:0, with six abstentions, in a meeting that took only an hour.

On Thursday, the bill cruised through the House of Representatives with a vote of 257:1, with three abstentions, after the Constitutional Court ordered a fresh vote.

Mr Wissanu said he was relieved that the bill had passed both the second and third readings in the Lower House on Thursday, because the budget disbursement for the 2020 fiscal year has been delayed a long time. Debate on the bill began in October 2019.

"I think state agencies, the public and businesses are also relieved, because projects can finally get off the ground," he said, adding that the government will soon start drafting the spending plan for the next fiscal year.

The revote was held after the court ruled that the previous deliberation and vote last month had been tainted by proxy voting.

Despite the quick passing of the bill, the House debate was disrupted several times due to malfunctioning voting machines and the lack of quorums. The opposition did not participate in the revote.

Parliament president and House Speaker Chuan Leekpai said  that he does not expect any such problems to occur once the chamber designated for 500 MPs is ready for use. Lawmakers are currently using the Senate chamber, which has fewer voting machines.

Mr Chuan also said the lack of a quorum or inadequate machines should never pose a problem if MPs attend meetings and are aware the coalition has a razor-thin majority.

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