Opposition accuses government of pushing politically motivated budget
The opposition on Wednesday demanded a cut in the fiscal 2023 budget bill and called on Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to step down before the end of this month when it regards his tenure as reaching the eight-year limit set by the 2017 Constitution.
The calls were made on the first day of the second reading of the budget bill.
Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith kicked off the debate of the second reading by informing the House that the budget vetting panel had trimmed down proposed spending by 7.644 billion baht and reallocated the funds to other agencies in line with national strategies and master development plans of the government.
Arkhom said the items that saw cuts in proposed spending included projects that were regarded as being unnecessary, such as the budget for training, seminars, hiring of advisers and foreign trips.
He said other projects that were removed from the budget bills included items that were unlikely to be carried out within the fiscal year and projects that were regarded as not suitable for the current economic situation.
He said some projects were removed from the budget bill because the budget panel saw that their money could come from off-budget financing.
Arkhom told the House that the budget reallocations were made to support economic recovery following the Covid crisis and the reallocations were aimed at seeking sustainable economic growth under the 3.185-trillion-baht budget.
The opposition alleged during the debate that much of the proposed spending was aimed at buying political support ahead of the next general election next year. The opposition demanded a cut, saying the 3.185-trillion-baht budget would be too high and would be too much of a financial burden on the next government.
Parit Wacharasindhu, Move Forward Party MP, said the overall budget amount should be cut by five per cent as many projects were unnecessary and not fair.
Parit alleged that more than half of road and water management projects would be carried out in provinces that are political strongholds of the parties that control the related ministries.
For example, he said seven provinces would receive budget allocations under the Rural Road Department that would constitute up to 25 per cent of all budget of the department.
He said seven other provinces would receive a water management budget that would constitute up to 36 per cent of the entire water resources management budget.
“The question is whether the government allocated the budget fairly based on public grievances or in its political interest,” Parit said.
Prachachart party-list MP Tawee Sodsong said the proposed spending should be cut further because a lot of the budget was being diverted only to provinces where coalition partners have MPs.
Pheu Thai MP Pichet Chuamuangphan said Prayut should step down as prime minister before his tenure ends on August 23 as the country could suffer serious damage if he stays put in office.
Pichet alleged that the Prayut government had run up the biggest public debt in Thailand’s history.
“The next government deserves sympathy because it would have to repay debt created by the former coup leaders,” Pichet said.
Pheu Thai MP Jirayu Huangsup said the fiscal 2023 budget bill should be cut by up to 29 per cent because the state should not borrow more. He said the state is now in a serious financial situation but the 2023 budget was prepared as a last shot of the government to win political support ahead of the next election.