Govt vows transparency in Bt2-tn loans
The government yesterday said projects under the Bt2-trillion loan plan to develop the country's infrastructure will be carried out in a transparent manner, while urging all sectors to check the use of funds and ensure that money is used efficiently and without corruption.Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt said his ministry had consulted with the Finance Ministry about mapping out measures to ensure that projects under the Bt2 trillion infrastructure development plan are carried out with transparency, and about ensuring appropriate bid prices, and that the companies do not make too much profit and deliver quality work.
"The Transport Ministry's concept is to allow public participation in the check system by providing the public with information through websites and to provide information on where the projects are located, started and completed,'' he said.
He said the projects would be carried out through normal bureaucratic procedures, by getting approval from the National Economic and Social Development Board, the Budget Bureau and the Cabinet. Economic impact assessments and health impact assessments must be conducted on all projects as required by law, he said.
In terms of legal obstacles, Chadchart said the government might have used wrong wordings for the Bt2-trillion loan. He said the bill stipulates that the government would be empowered to seek loans. It would have been better if the bill had stipulated that the government is empowered to invest in the country's infrastructure, he said.
He said even though the loan bill is yet to be approved, the government is set to start projects such as the high-speed train on 10 routes and three electric trains on three routes, using dual rail tracks. The minister said the amount of loans the government would seek depends on the progress of project implementation within seven years. It will not seek all Bt2.2 trillion in loans if certain projects are delayed.
He added that the BTS route from Bangkok to Ayutthaya was expected to be completed within four years.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said the government wanted to seek loans to develop infrastructure instead of using the normal budget because it wanted speedy development and to create business confidence among foreign investors. If the government resorts to normal budgets, the projects may face continuity problems.
He said the government would ensure disclosure of information such as mean prices and procurement procedures. The loan bill would be tabled for deliberation by Parliament at the end of this month.
He said the government wanted the bill to be passed as an Act, not a Royal Decree, because all projects would be subjected to checks by concerned state agencies. He said a Royal Decree is used in emergency situations such as to tackle national disasters like the massive flooding in 2011.
He also dismissed criticism that by drafting the bill as an Act, the actual public debt figure would not be revealed. Kittiratt insisted that public debt would be shown in relation to the GDP and the government would ensure that the public debt ceiling would not exceed 50 per cent of the country's GDP.
He said details of debt payments against the Bt2-trillion loans are not included in the bill but would be indicated in Cabinet resolutions.
With the total principal and interest amounting to about Bt5 trillion from the Bt2 trillion loan, Kittiratt said the government planned to pay interest during the first 10 years. In the 11th year, it will start repaying the principal, which will be repaid in 50 years.