Thirachai warns against off-budget loan
Thirachai Phuvanatnaranubala, the first finance minister of the Yingluck Shinawatra administration, yesterday warned against the government's move to seek a Bt2-trillion "off-budget" loan for its mega-infrastructure plan."The investments are nothing of an emergency nature. There is no reason to bypass the normal budget process," Thirachai said via Facebook.
The main approval route as prescribed by the Constitution was good and subject to the oversight of both the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) and the Budget Bureau, he said. When Yingluck became prime minister, Thirachai emerged as the first choice for the post of finance minister.
However, after serving for just about four months, he was removed in a Cabinet reshuffle reportedly for opposing the government's policy to make the central bank responsible for the country's Bt1.14-trillion debt incurred during the 1997 financial crisis.
On his Facebook page, Thirachai said the development plans should be included in annual budget, as off-budget financing means improper project reviews.
"When off-budget financing is sought, all governments, this one or those in the past, just set up a committee to screen investment proposals.
"Although the NESDB and Budget Bureau are represented on the committee, the projects cannot be thoroughly scrutinised," he said.
While off-budget financing is faster, it involves risks. Only a single committee is responsible for any mishaps, rather than the government agencies in charge.
"If (the borrowing bill) would finance an urgent project, it could be acceptable. But this is not an emergency. There is no justification to avoid routine budget vetting," he added.