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Budget panel tells officials to be prudent

THE CHAIRMAN of the National Legislative Assembly's budget scrutiny panel, General Chatchai Sarikulya, has asked for reduced expenditures on seminars, training, public relations and overseas trips, a source said yesterday.

Chatchai said trips abroad should be approved only on projects with a legal binding. Investment budgets and budgets for buying land and construction projects must be spent carefully. Prices of construction projects must be reasonable and appropriate when compared with other projects.

The Finance Ministry, the Budget Bureau, and the Bank of Thailand yesterday attended the first budget-scrutiny meeting.

The media were not allowed in and the meeting was not broadcast.

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva expressed concern that the fiscal 2015 budget might not help stimulate the economy because up to Bt100 billion would be spent to pay debts incurred from the populist policies of the previous elected government. It has been estimated that Bt71 billion will be needed to pay for the rice-pledging scheme, and Bt42 billion for the tax-break programme to help people by their first car.

Abhisit noted that the military's ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) had also decided against giving farmers any subsidies and suspended the village fund project. "This will adversely affect the flow of money into the economy, especially in rural areas that are facing low purchasing power from plummeting farm-produce prices."

Hopes of spurring growth through infrastructure investment is also uncertain because the budget bill had not included a clear spending plan on basic infrastructure, he said.

During a meeting of the junta yesterday, its leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha ordered the Budget Bureau and the NCPO to come up with a plan to monitor state spending for efficiency and transparency.

Meanwhile, General Paiboon Koomchaya, chief of legal affairs for the NCPO, denied the junta was planning to give amnesty to ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Media reports had earlier been circulated that the junta would conduct a survey to see whether the public accepted giving amnesty to people charged in political cases that are not involved in crimes or serious offences.

He said the NCPO had never thought of such a plan and had never released such reports. He said those who made the allegation aimed to discredit the NCPO.

Separately, Defence Ministry permanent secretary General Surasak Kanjanarat played down reports that there had been fewer applicants for the National Reform Council (NRC) selection process than expected, saying people should wait until the last application day to see how many wanted to take part.

He said he did not believe allegations of candidate-fixing had deterred the public from taking part in the selection process.

Surasak also dismissed speculation that people did not want to take part because they would have to declare their assets.

Prayuth said he hoped more than 400 qualified people would be nominated to join the NRC selection process.

He urged the selection committee to choose the most qualified nominees for the reform mission.


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