Emergency Covid loan approved by big margin

Emergency Covid loan approved by big margin

MPs on Thursday voted 270-196 to allow the government to borrow 500 billion baht for various Covid-19 projects.

About 300 billion baht will go towards relief schemes for people across various sectors, 30 billion baht on medical supplies, drugs, vaccines and research, and the rest for social and economic rehabilitation schemes.

All loan contracts must be signed by Sept 30 next year, said Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith.

He pledged before the House of Representatives vote that the extra spending would be tightly controlled and the government would keep pubic debt at less than 60% of gross domestic product.

Cholnan Srikaew, a Pheu Thai MP for Nan, said the opposition was not convinced the borrowing would enable the government to contain the pandemic and he also cast doubt on how transparent the spending would be. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said when the debate began on Wednesday that the country was in critical need of the loan because nobody knew how long it would take to bring the coronavirus crisis under control.

The loan decree was published in the Royal Gazette on May 25 and followed a one-trillion-baht emergency loan decree last year.

"I make no promises about the 'cobras' [a reference to renegade politicians who defy party resolutions] because MPs are given a free vote," said Gen Prayut.

Four lawmakers from the opposition Move Forward Party defied the whip and voted in favour of the loan.

They are Karom Polpornklang, listed MP, Kwanlert Panichmat, Chon Buri MP, and two Chiang Rai MPs -- Ekaphop Pienpiset and Piradet Kamsamut.

The four sat in the Bhumjaithai Party zone during the debate.

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