January 29, 2013 00:00 By Chanikarn Phumhiran,
Only 1 per cent of executive decree for Bt350 billion has been used, so it wasn't urgent, he tells court
Democrat Party deputy leader Korn Chatikavanij yesterday tacitly told the Constitution Court it had been duped by the government into endorsing an executive decree for a Bt350-billion loan.
Korn submitted an open letter to Constitution Court President Wasan Soypisudh yesterday, telling him that issuing the executive decree was apparently not as urgent as the government had claimed.
After the decree took effect on January 27 last year, the government had only borrowed Bt10 billion under the decree’s loan ceiling, Korn said.
However, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na Ranong, reaffirmed yesterday the government would be able to open bidding for the private sector to join the water management project by February to April this year, to ensure that the flood prevention measure would go ahead.
Korn, after submitting the letter via Nipat Phodejthamrong, director of the Constitution Court Office, said he did not intend to tell the court it had made an erroneous ruling – he just wanted the court to use the Bt350-billion decree as an example for future cases. He said the court may simply not have had enough information when it considered the matter.
When the Yingluck Shinawatra government issued the executive decree to allow itself to borrow Bt350 billion for comprehensive water management projects, the Democrats asked the Constitution Court to rule whether the decree was legal or not.
The court ruled that the decree was constitutional because the government urgently needed the loans to start flood-prevention projects.
‘Only Bt4.64 billion drawn ’
Of the Bt10 billion loan, only Bt4.64 billion has been drawn for projects, Korn said, so less than one per cent of the Bt350 billion had been drawn for spending.
Korn said there are only five months left before the loan executive decree expires – on June 30 – but so far the government had offered no concrete plan for water management projects
to be financed by the remaining Bt340 billion.
So, it was unlikely the government would be able to borrow the Bt340 billion in time before the executive decree expires.
“From the facts, the government has not lived up to its testimony to the Constitution Court that it had an urgent need to issue the executive decree,” Korn said.
Government spending for 2012 showed the government could have obtained the necessary loan via normal procedures and the 2013 Budget Bill, or it could have obtained the loan via the 2005 Public Debt Act, or by issuing an additional budget bill.
“When the Constitution Court considered the case, the court did not have the information for considering whether it was true, as the government claimed, that it really needed to borrow the money and that national stability would be affected had the loan not been approved. I understand that the court treated the government on its honour that day,” Korn said.
But he said from the example of the Bt350-billion loan decree, he feared the government may lack transparency – when it sought Bt2.2 trillion for infrastructure development for seven fiscal years from 2013 to 2020 – as it lacks details on how it will spend that massive loan as well.
Kittiratt said: “The government is proceeding with water management projects worth Bt350 billion. The bidding should open this February. The auction will emphasise transparency. It will be open internationally and clearly show the bidding results to the public.”
Meanwhile, he believed current baht appreciation should be well managed by the Bank of Thailand. He insisted the government would not intervene to manage in the currency. He said Thailand would have many projects that would rely on the import of machinery for infrastructure. And the baht’s current strength should help the import sector.