January 4, 2024
BANGKOK – The 3.48 trillion baht 2024 national budget is designed to centralise the power of state agencies rather than tackling national crises, declared opposition leader Chaithawat Tulathon.
On Wednesday, the first of the two days allocated for the first reading of the budget bill, Chaithawat said the proposed expenditures under the 2024 budget bill were not planned well and lacked strategy and focus.
He also pointed out that the proposed expenditure was not based on the goals and policies of the government, which Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin announced to Parliament on September 11 last year.
Srettha, who also doubles as finance minister, said the country was in a crisis while announcing the policies.
However, Chaithawat pointed out that funds were only allocated for projects left behind by the previous government, and Srettha’s administration had simply taken them up and attached new goals to them.
“Essentially, most projects lack strategies and are not listed in the order of importance, even though the prime minister had said that funds would be allocated to solve problems under urgent policies and the fast resolution of urgent problems,” Chaithawat said.
For instance, the opposition leader said the government had promised to reduce electricity bills for the public, yet it did not set any funds for the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) to offset the subsidies.
Instead, he said, Egat has been left to shoulder the cost of subsidies on its own.
The opposition leader also reminded the government that it had admitted the country was in a political crisis due to an “undemocratic” Constitution. Yet, he said, no funds were allocated for holding the at least two national referendums needed for a new charter to be written.
He also asked why no funds had been allocated for the ruling party’s digital wallet scheme. The government had said it would use the national budget to finance the scheme to avoid taking loans.
The opposition leader also alleged that the government had exaggerated the projected revenue to justify its projected expenditure to be as high as 3.48 trillion baht.
The government claims it will earn 2.787 trillion baht, but Chaithawat said the actual revenue will be far lower than projected.
“This government is an ad hoc administration with concerted policies and goals that the partners will steer together,” Chaithawat alleged.
“It’s like they have come together to temporarily share the resources … If the coalition partners have a common goal, I see it being the goal to solve the crises of the elite.”
Chaithawat wrapped up his speech by saying the opposition hopes the government will come up with a better budget next year, and that the opposition will cooperate to reform the bureaucracies and budgeting procedures.