NLA approves B2.7 trillion 2016 budget
B20.5bn diverted to emergency fund
The 2.7 trillion baht budget bill for the 2016 fiscal year sailed through the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) Thursday.
The 35-section bill was passed in the second and final readings, with 184 votes in favour and four abstentions.
The initial 2.72 trillion baht budget was slashed by 20.5 billion baht, which was shifted into the central budget for emergency use and to support implementation of the government's 20-year national strategic plan, said Deputy Finance Minister Wisut Srisuphan, in his capacity as deputy chairman of the NLA committee vetting the bill.
The emergency and strategic budget, as it is known, has now gone up to 422.7 billion baht, he said.
Some state agencies had their budgets cut and the portions transferred to the central budget. They were given assurances they will get priority if they need access to the emergency and strategic fund in the future, Mr Wisut said.
Only a small number of NLA members were present to debate the budget bill. Two of them took to the floor to voice their disagreement with some parts of the bill, after their recommendations for amendments were rejected by the budget vetting committee.
The vetting panel made several recommendations to improve budget spending efficiency, including reforming budgetary practices. It will be possible to assess whether the reforms are successful by following the progress of projects funded through the budget, it said.
The proposed reforms need the cooperation from agencies responsible to draft working strategies, plan policies and manage human resources, it added.
Another suggestion was the government should set national goals for each area of a ministry's work, and that current indicators used to assess efficiency in budget planning and use for each state agency should be reviewed.
The NLA committee recommended that tracking and accelerating the disbursement of the state budget should be treated as crucial tasks.
It also wants work performance reviews of state agencies to be compared against the previous year's assessments. These reports are presented through an information technology system that is updated and monitored continuously.
Overlapping of budgets spent on training, seminars and academic programmes should be eradicated, while the objectives of such programmes should be made clearer, said the panel.
It encouraged state agencies to make the best use of their facilities and seek cooperation with universities in organising training programmes.
The budget panel also said air travel should be approved only as a last resort when no other means of transportation is available.
State officials should only travel by economy class to help the government save its budget.
The committee urged state agencies to revise their construction plans to ensure, with the help of surveys, that their buildings are not put up in areas prone to natural disasters, particularly earthquakes.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said the panel's recommendations would be forwarded to the cabinet to use as practical guidelines for all state agencies.