Prayut orders coalition unity
Budget bill meeting collapses in disarray
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday instructed government coalition partners to resolve their differences after a meeting of a special House committee vetting the 2021 budget bill collapsed in disarray on Monday due to the lack of a quorum.
The July 20 meeting was brought to an abrupt end when a quorum count was proposed and the committee members from the coalition parties and the opposition camp left the room, leaving only 19 Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) MPs. The meeting required at least 24 members to meet the quorum.
Bhumjaithai MP for Uthai Thani Chada Thaiseth proposed a quorum count after the coalition partners were said to be upset with the committee members from the ruling PPRP who appeared to lack decision-making power.
Gen Prayut emphasised that the panel members must patch things up and make sure that the deliberation process is completed by the deadline. Any delays would affect the public spending plan, he said.
"Concerned parties must iron out their problems and if they can't, the budget making process will be affected. They must hurry up and avoid getting into conflicts and keep up with the time frame," he said.
Under the law, the budget bill deliberation process in the House must be completed within 105 days after which the draft law will be submitted to the Senate for consideration and endorsement.
Mr Chada on Tuesday blamed the PPRP for the collapse of the July 20 meeting, saying the ruling party failed to set up a clear framework for the committee's work.
"We need to establish clear guidelines for budget scrutiny this year especially as the country faces the Covid-19 pandemic," he said.
While Mr Chada admitted that there was a disagreement over the appointments of chairpersons of sub-committees, he insisted it had nothing to do with the meeting collapsing.
It was reported that the PPRP wanted to assume chairmanship of all the seven panels.
Worawat Ua-apinyakul, a committee adviser from the Pheu Thai Party, said the scrutiny process was not making any progress as the panel never discussed how budget cuts would be made even though state agencies were invited to clarify their spending plans.
Asked about the row over the chairmanship of the sub-committees, he said those panels were yet to be established but warned that the PPRP should compromise to avoid conflicts.
He also criticised the PPRP for not taking the budget bill deliberation seriously, saying the party did not send people with decision-making power to the committee meeting.
Varathep Rattanakorn, deputy chairman of the budget scrutiny panel who presided over the meeting, on Tuesday dismissed as untrue media reports that the PPRP wanted to assume chairmanship on all seven sub-committees.