Loan decree debate timeline 'too short'

Loan decree debate timeline 'too short'

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his cabinet will address parliament on why his government needs to issue three executive decrees backing loans of 1.97 trillion baht to pay for Covid-19 relief.

Chief government whip Wirat Rattanaset said on Wednesday the prime minister and his ministers will explain details of the decrees on May 27-29. The opposition says the timeframe for the debate is too short to ensure scrutiny of such important decrees, which will lead to the government taking on a large public debt. In case three days turns out to be insufficient, more time could be set aside the following week, he said.

Anudith Nakornthap, secretary-general of the Pheu Thai Party, said the debate will provide only 30 hours debate in total with the opposition getting only half that to scrutinise the decrees. "We will have to debate on decrees involving loans of up to 1.9ึ7 trillion baht in 15 hours, which means we will have to scrutinise 35 million baht of the loan every second, which is impossible," he said.

The opposition will assess the decrees against their three core principles, namely to provide a remedy for the negative impact of Covid-19 on the public, to fund measures to shore up the economy damaged by the outbreak and rehabilitate the economy.

The six opposition parties on Wednesday called a meeting to discuss their stance towards the decrees. After the meeting at Pheu Thai Party's headquarters, opposition leader Sompong Amornvivat said he agreed with the decrees, but said the government still needs to say how it will spend the money.

There is no guarantee the 10-member committee to be appointed by Gen Prayut to take care of the 1.97 trillion baht won't have a conflict of interest between their roles on the committee managing the spending and their own interests, he said. The opposition would submit an urgent motion proposing a special House committee to monitor the spending.

Phumtham Wechayachai, adviser to opposition leader, said the committee taking care of the loan should be elected by parliament instead. Pita Limjaroenrat, leader of the opposition Move Forward Party, likened the 1.97 trillion baht loan to a "great storm" and said three days would never be enough for scrutinising the decrees.

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