Progressive Movement's charter amendment too radical, says senator

Progressive Movement's charter amendment too radical, says senator

Gen Lertrat Rattanawanit, senator.
Gen Lertrat Rattanawanit, senator.

The constitutional amendment proposed by the Progressive Movement revising Chapter 14 of the constitution to dismantle state control of local administrative bodies is too radical and difficult to put into practice, senator Lertrat Rattanawanit said on Tuesday.

The draft amendment was proposed by the Progressive Movement led by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and supported by 76,591 signatures. It was submitted to parliament in July.

It was expected to be tabled for consideration by a joint sitting of parliament on Tuesday evening or Wednesday this week.

Gen Lertrat said in his view there were two major contentious points in the proposal.

The first was the allocation of budget funding for local administrative organisations. The second was the dissolution of the provincial offices of the central administration, their duties to be taken over by the local administrations.

Under the amendment, the government must allocate 50% of net revenue for local government. For instance, if net revenue was 2.5 trillion baht, 1.25 trillion baht would go to local administrations.

At present, about 29% of total revenue, about 700 billion baht, was allocated to local government. To meet the proposed 50%, the national budget must be considerably increased. Many government offices would also have to be dissolved to divert budget funds to local administration, Gen Lertrat said.

The other point of contention was the requirement for a plan for the dissolution of state offices in the provinces to be drawn up in two years, and a public referendum on the plan be held in five years. If the people agreed with the plan, state offices for public health, transport, energy and others - except security and foreign affairs - would be dissolved.

The proposal also required parliament to amend five or six relevant laws within 180 days, which would be very difficult to do, the senator said.

"In order to decentralise administrative power to all 7,850 local administrative bodies, the number of government officials within the central administration must be drastically cut. There are now about 3 million officials in the central administration and only 300,000 officials in local administration," Gen Lertrat said.

He said dissolution of state provincial offices to decentralise power to local administrations was easier said than done. For example, there were now problems with the government's plan to transfer tambon health stations to local administrations due to a shortage of doctors and nurses and budget constraints.

Three core members of the Progressive Movement - Mr Thanathorn, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul and Pannika Wanich - were at the parliament on Tuesday morning, representing the people who signed in support of the proposed amendment, to defend the bill. They expected it to be considered by parliament on Tuesday night or on Wednesday.

Mr Thanathorn said he hoped the bill would be passed by parliament in the first reading, and then be adjourned for scrutiny by committee.

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