The Nation



Kittiratt to meet EC on what measures may break election laws

Some economic stimulus measures may have to be scrapped, including the waiver of the diesel excise tax, if the Election Commission considers that they violate the election law by promoting the government.

"Most of the schemes were approved and I will discuss this with the EC to avoid delays," Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said after the caretaker Cabinet meeting yesterday.

The hot topic was how to keep the economy humming through the next two months despite the political instability and drop in domestic demand.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra instructed Kittiratt to ensure that the economy runs smoothly and to encourage private investment amid the delays in public spending.

Government spokesman Teerat Ratanasevi said that when the Finance Ministry was occupied by protesters from November 25 to December 9, planned project procurements were delayed.

The Cabinet also worried that if the February 2 election does not go through, investor confidence may be impaired and that could spur further capital outflows.

Kittirat also instructed government agencies to carry on with their projects while preparing to hand them over so that there is a seamless transition when the new administration is sworn in.

To maintain the diesel pump price below Bt30 per litre, the Abhisit government in May 2011 waived the excise tax of Bt5.30 per litre as well as the value-added tax of 40 satang per litre.

The Yingluck government has been approving extensions of the waivers on a monthly basis. The latest extension will end this month.

Kittiratt sees the need to prolong the government's low interest loan programme for businesses in the troubled deep South, which would also end this month.

He reassured all farmers with rice-pledging certificates that they would receive their money from the government, but only for the main crop. The next government will have to decide if this would be extended to cover the second crop.

The subsidies to rubber farmers would also be paid. Out of the Bt21 billion budget, about Bt10 billion has not yet been paid out.

While ordering government agencies to do what they can to drive economic growth within legal limits, Yingluck also told the National Economic and Social Development Board to summarise political impacts on the economy for the Cabinet to consider at next week's meeting.

What could be affected

Diesel excise tax: Bt5.70/litre waiver ends this month

Soft loans to businesses in the deep South: package ends this month

Rice pledging: to cover the main crop only, ends in February

Subsidy to rubber growers: of Bt21 billion budget, payment of Bt11 billion pending.

Source: The Nation

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