Thai finance minister rejects extra loans for rice pledging scheme

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BANGKOK, Jan 10 – Deputy Prime Minister/Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong has stood firm that the government’s loan ceiling of Bt150 billion for the highly-criticised rice pledging scheme and the Bt480 billion loan limits for state enterprises will not be expanded.

He said the rice pledging scheme has used up the available loans and the government disagreed with some state enterprises seeking additional loans to finance the programme. The state enterprises’ Bt480 billion in loans represent 20 per cent of the national expenditure – the maximum permitted by law.

Urging a speedy release of rice under the plan to enable cash flow, Mr Kittiratt said government agencies responsible for the rice pledging scheme should effectively manage revenue and expense under the government-approved Bt240 billion fund for the 2012/2013 harvest year.

The Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) said it has issued Bt113 billion loans for the purchase of 7.5 million tonnes of rice in the 2012/2013 harvest year as it awaits a new injection of Bt150 billion from the Finance Ministry.

Wanchai Siriwatanatrakul, director of the BAAC State Policy Department, said the Finance Ministry has so far forwarded Bt55 billion loans to the BAAC for the rice programme and the balance will be gradually handed over to the BAAC.

He said the Commerce Ministry has informed the BAAC that it will pay Bt20 billion to the bank soon, adding that a total of Bt85 billion should be fully paid to the bank by the end of this year.