Thai Lower House passes Bt2.525 trillion budget in first reading


BANGKOK, May 31 – The lower house of Thailand’s Parliament, the House of Representatives, today voted to pass the Bt2.525 trillion 2014 budget bill which, according to the government, is in accord with its national strategy.

The bill sailed through the first reading with 292 against 155 votes, 27 abstentions and four no votes. A 63-member vetting committee, which includes 15 cabinet members and 48 government and opposition MPs, was set up to scrutinise the bill for 30 days.

Deputy Interior Minister Pracha Prasopdee ruled out an opposition MP’s allegation of kickbacks demanded by Interior Ministry officials from the Local Administration Department in exchange for allocations of a “special budget,” dubbed the “happy budget.”

Deputy Prime Minister/Education Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana said the closure of small schools in certain areas was necessary due to the small number of students and inadequate numbers of teachers.

Regarding the purchase of tablet computers for students, he said the price of the new lot was higher due to higher specifications and quality – a clarification which was immediately rejected by Democrat MP from Nakhon Si Thammarat, Prakob Rattanapan, who said the specifications were unchanged

Democrat MP Pichase Panvichatkul from Krabi expressed concern at the government’s financial discipline in light of a proposed bill to seek Bt2 trillion loans in parallel with the budget bill.

He said the borrowing is equivalent to five years of national budget.

Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said it was impossible to vote for the Budget Bill due to its contradiction with the national strategies as earlier outlined by the prime minister.

Deputy Prime Minister/Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong, in wrapping up the debate, called on the budget scrutiny committee to carefully thrash out the bill.

The scrutiny committee has set Monday for its first meeting. The special parliamentary session was declared closed as of tomorrow. (MCOT online news)