THE GOVERNMENT’S move to increase the central fund demonstrates that state agencies are functioning poorly, said Sakon Waranyuwattana, dean of Thammasat University’s faculty of economics.
The amendment of the 2017 budget bill was announced in the Royal Gazette in the past few days. It authorises fund transfers from numerous state agencies to the central fund worth a combined total of Bt11.9 billion.
The transfer was approved by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) last month. The government defended the move, saying that state agencies had failed to spend their budgets as planned and circumstances had changed.
However, Sakon blamed the government management of the annual budget, which resulted in fragmented allocations and inefficiency. The government mainly allocates budgets through government departments, resulting in budget centralisation and a lack of coordination among officials who work for different ministries and departments.
He suggested the government should decentralise budget allocation by focusing on geographic spending and allow local governments to have a greater role in budget management.
Sakon added that he did not agree with increasing the central budget because he said it would be like giving a blank cheque to the Cabinet. Lawmakers cannot scrutinise spending because no details were provided about projects when the central fund was proposed by the government, he said.
The central fund had risen alarmingly from about Bt10 billion to Bt100 billion in recently years, he said.
When the government last year proposed the 2017 budget bill to the NLA, it set total expenditures at Bt2.73 trillion, including a sizeable central fund of Bt346 billion. Earlier this year the government also proposed a mid-year budget bill worth Bt190 billion, aimed to stimulate the economy.
The 2017 fiscal year will end on September 31, and government agencies are trying to speed up their budget disbursements.