PM set to back B3tn budget

PM set to back B3tn budget

House to debate big 2023 spending plan

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha speaks at the Nikkei Forum on Thursday. He will defend the budget in Parliament on Tuesday. (Government House photo)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha speaks at the Nikkei Forum on Thursday. He will defend the budget in Parliament on Tuesday. (Government House photo)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is ready to defend the government's 3.18-trillion-baht 2023 budget bill in the three-day House debate starting on Tuesday, said deputy government spokeswoman Rachada Dhnadirek on Sunday.

The PM intends to use the opportunity to explain to the public why the sum is so large and what it will be spent on in the coming fiscal year, she said.

Of the total, 78.2% will go towards funding fixed expenses while the rest will finance investment projects, she said, adding the coming year's fiscal budget is 85 billion baht higher than that of 2022.

A sum of around 270 billion baht will be earmarked for 265 projects spanning 14 ministries and aimed at tackling poverty in five core areas of development, she said.

A pot of 173 billion baht will also be set aside to finance projects offering financial aid to the poor and vulnerable groups, including the 13.4 million people who hold state welfare cards, 2.58 million disabled people, 2.58 million young children, and 880,000 people living with HIV/Aids, she said.

A number of other projects in this area are also targeted at helping farmers reduce their production costs and improve irrigation for their farms, she said.

There will also be 18.1-billion-baht put into projects to improve educational opportunities for children in poor families and support costs associated with the 660,000 young children who attend day care centres across the country, she said.

For public health, 70.1-billion-baht has been earmarked for the universal healthcare scheme, which currently takes care of 13.45 million Thais, and the improvement of services in 494 state-run healthcare facilities.

There are also plans to subsidise farm land by 7.16 billion baht for the poor as well as improve access to running water for about 200,000 households in remote areas, she said.

Access to state services has also been prioritised with 2.16 billion baht to be set aside to fund projects to help those suffering serious social problems, particularly those involving migrant workers and the victims of human trafficking gangs, she said.

The deputy government spokeswoman urged public to follow the debate if possible.

Opposition Move Forward Party (MFP) leader Pita Limjaroenrat, meanwhile, said his party could never approve this budget as it stands due to a lack of focus on supporting economic recovery in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He likened the bill to a seriously ill elephant and claimed the majority of the provisions merely address existing needs, while only 30% of the budget has been set aside for future management of the country.

The government should better plan its budget to bring about the recovery of the country's economy and raise public hope, he said.

It is pointless to pool more than 500 billion baht in the central budget, the largest portion of the entire bill, when up to 80% of that amount will fund the payment of pensions and healthcare costs of civil servants, he said.

Mr Pita also said the largest increase in budget allocation planned for the 2023 fiscal year will go to the state enterprises such as the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives so that it can retrospectively pay a subsidy to farmers under a programme which had begun all the way back in 2008.

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