BANGKOK, March 30 – The Thai House of Representatives voted 284 against 152 late Friday night to sail through the highly-criticised bill intended to borrow Bt2 trillion for the country’s infrastructure investment.
Twenty-one MPs abstained and seven refused to vote. A 36-member committee was set up to deliberate the bill in the second reading within 30 days. The first committee meeting is set for Tuesday.
The bill was passed after two full days of heated debate. The Democrat Party insisted that it was unnecessary to borrow for the mammoth development projects and the government should acquire funding through the national budget.
The opposition said the huge loans will take five decades for repayment and the bill lacks transparent details on spending and development projects.
The Democrat Party told reporters earlier in the day that it was mulling a petition to the Constitution Court to seek its ruling on the legality of the bill.
Areepong Bhoocha-oom, finance permanent secretary, said the opposition has the right to seek the Constitution Court’s verdict on the borrowing bill which was earlier vetted by the Council of State at the government’s request.
The Council of State decided that the loans and the national budget were two separate, unrelated subjects and the constitution has impositions on financial legislation which include borrowing, he said.
In the second reading, the 36-member committee is obliged to study each article of the bill and the over 200-page appendix on three key strategies, mainly on rail system and transport.
The investment projects will connect different regions of the country and give the government leeway in its execution with the condition that all investments must be in accordance with the strategies stated in the appendix.
“Over 80 percent of the investment will be on rail systems which has been approved by several previous governments. Procurements must be done under regulations of the Prime Minister’s Office. It must be transparent and bid winners must be publicly announced,” Mr Areepong said.
Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt said the high-speed train projects will initially cover the Bangkok-Hua Hin and Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima routes and extensions will come in future stages.