March 12, 2014 00:00 By Nakarin Srilert The Nation
The caretaker government might scrap the Bt700-billion high-speed train project if the Constitutional Court rules today that the Bt2-trillion loan bill was passed in violation of the Constitution.
Meanwhile, the Thai Federation of Industries (FTI) was concerned that the delay in the country’s infrastructure project might impact economic growth for the next seven years.
The court verdict is expected to be delivered today. The court started hearing the petition, filed by the Democrat Party, on January 8 after the Senate had passed the loan bill.
“I’m not worried about the ruling on the bill as we respect the court’s verdict,” said caretaker deputy Prime Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana.
The court will decide whether the loan bill violates Articles 169 and 170 of the Constitution.
The government argues that the Bt2-billion loan is not a kind of “State Fund” under Article 169 of the Constitution. Therefore, it does not need to go through the House in the same way as a national budget. If the loan is not a state fund, the government will not have to report the fund’s financial statement to the House and the Senate as stipulated by Article 170.
The huge loan bill, already passed by the Senate, gives the Finance Ministry the power to borrow up to Bt2 trillion to finance the infrastructure projects such as double-track railways, mass-transit electric trains, sea ports, motorways and high-speed trains.
Asked how the government would accept responsibility if the bill was ruled unconstitutional, Phongthep said in normal circumstances, the prime minister might have had to take responsibility and resign or the government would have had to dissolve the House.
“But, as House has already been dissolved and we’re a caretaker government, we don’t need to do anything to accept responsibility,” Phongthep said
Caretaker Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt said the government would alter its infrastructure development plan if the Bt2-trillion loan bill was found to be in breach of the Constitution, by putting off some projects requiring huge investment such as the high-speed trains.
Premier Yingluck Shinawatra said if the court’s verdict went against the Bt2-trillion loan bill, it would be sad as Thailand would lose an opportunity for infrastructure development.