The cabinet approved a raft of proposals in what’s likely to be its last meeting before Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha dissolves parliament to pave way for a general election.
A marathon meeting chaired by Gen Prayut on Tuesday endorsed the allocation of money for various ministries under the 3.35-trillion-baht (US$97 billion) budget for fiscal year 2024 starting Oct 1, a 24-billion-baht expressway project, and investments worth 62 billion baht by state-owned National Telecom in mobile networks and licensing.
The cabinet also approved salary increase worth 4.8 billion baht a year for municipal officials, a 716-million-baht income guarantee program for corn farmers and low-interest loans worth 1 billion baht. The ministers also signed off on a proposal to extend income tax exemption or reduction on investment in depositary receipts tied to shares of companies listed outside Thailand.
Gen Prayut is bidding to extend his eight-year reign — first as a coup leader in 2014 and then as the head of an elected coalition since 2019. He is the top candidate of a new conservative party, Ruam Thai Sang Chart, after splitting with the military-backed ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) that helped him stay in power since the last vote.
The meeting considered “more than 60 issues, with the most important being ways to ease people’s struggles,” Gen Prayut told reporters, without saying if it was the last cabinet huddle before parliament dissolution.
Gen Prayut may order the dissolution on March 20, Prime Minister’s Office Minister Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana told reporters before the cabinet meeting. The Election Commission (EC) has set May 7, 2023, as the date for the next general election, assuming the House of Representatives completes its four-year term on March 23.