B2.57-trillion budget bill passed without challenge

B2.57-trillion budget bill passed without challenge

The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) voted on Monday to accept in principle the 2015 budget bill, with the Education Ministry getting the biggest budget, followed by the Interior Ministry.

The members voted 183 in favour, with three abstentions.

A 50-member panel was also set up to scrutinise it in the coming weeks.

The Education Ministry was allocated the biggest budget of 502.25 billion baht, a 4% increase from last year's budget and 19.5% of the total budget allocations.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, chairman of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), has called for education reforms as part of his plans to reshape the country and restore political stability.

Defence spending, which typically increases in Thailand after a coup, grew 5.3% from last year's allocation to 193.50 billion baht.

"If we don't increase the budget and purchase new weapons, then nobody will fear us," Gen Prayuth told reporters.

The NLA officially convened for the first time on Monday after the appointments of its president and his deputies had been royally endorsed.

The first bill it considered was the 2015 expenditure budget worth 2.57 trillion baht.

Gen Prayuth and permanent secretaries of all ministries joined the meeting to explain details of the budget.

The army chief said the economy had improved steadily after the political situation became clearer and the administration resumed.

"The Thai economy should grow in a range between 1.5% and 2.5% this year. The NCPO targeted to achieve a 2% growth rate and inflation at an acceptable range between 1.9% and 2.9% next year," he said.

"In 2015, the railway system will be improved to reduce logistic costs, especially 11 dual-track routes including the Hat Yai-Padang Besar electric system. Since Malaysia has already been committed to the electric rail system, ours will need to be compatible with it.

"We just approved a long-term strategy and no borrowing has been made. Whether it will be a one-metre or standard gauge (1.43m) will be discussed further," he said.

The NCPO will also push for fairer land ownership since a lot of land has not been developed. More laws will be proposed to the NLA to encourage landlords to rent out land to farmers.

"I assure you taxpayers' money will be spent efficiently and transparently. Mechanisms to check the spending will be set up and each ministry is told to report the spending every three months.

"Construction costs [for state projects] need to come down by at least 10-30%," he said.

Seventeen NLA members subsequently debated the bill.

The National Economic and Social Development Board, which compiles gross domestic product data, on Monday trimmed its 2014 full-year growth forecast to a range between 1.5% and 2% from 1.5% and 2.5% range.

Thailand avoided recession in the second quarter, the state planning agency said on Monday, but questions remain about the pace and depth of growth.

The board said it expected to see steady economic recovery in the second half of the year.

Gen Prayuth will likely become prime minister in coming days, according to legislature members. He has outlined a three-phase plan of reconciliation, formation of a government and elections in 2015.

Since taking power, the junta has made delayed payments to rice farmers, capped fuel prices and made a point of reassuring foreign investors that Thailand will return to democracy within a year. It has also approved urgent infrastructure projects.

The moves appear to have helped consumer confidence which rose to the highest in 11 months in July, data this month showed. 

Who has the biggest slice?

The expenditure budget of 19 ministries and supplementary budget, excluding those of other agencies.

Total budget is 2.57 trillion baht. Data are sorted by % change year-on-year.

Unit: billion baht

Ministry

Amount

% share

% change

Justice

22.21

0.9

12.5%

Transport

112.38

4.4

11.7%

Labour

33.68

1.3

11.0%

Culture

7.08

0.3

6.9%

Agriculture and cooperatives

81.89

3.2

6.6%

Supplementary budget

365.08

14.2

6.4%

Defence

193.50

7.5

5.3%

Education

502.25

19.5

4.0%

Public health

109.88

4.3

3.6%

Interior

341.22

13.3

2.4%

Science and technology

8.94

0.3

2.0%

Foreign affairs

8.59

0.3

-0.4%

Energy

2.00

0.1

-3.0%

Natural resources and environment

30.41

1.2

-3.4%

Social development and human security

9.54

0.4

-7.6%

Industry

5.93

0.2

-9.9%

Finance

186.34

7.2

-18.6%

Commerce

7.34

0.3

-19.9%

Information and communication technology

5.72

0.2

-39.5%

Tourism and sports

8.30

0.3

-39.9%

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