Opposition parties said the government has been wasteful with the taxpayers’ money during its budgetary planning for fiscal 2021, the parliament heard on Wednesday.
In January, the cabinet approved a fiscal 2021 budget worth 3.3 trillion baht with a deficit of 523 billion baht.
It was 3.1 per cent or 100 billion baht more than the budget for fiscal 2020 which was worth 3.2 trillion baht with a deficit of 469 billion baht.
The Ministry of Finance said on Wednesday that the disbursement of the fiscal 2021 scheduled for October 1 will be delayed by one month.
Prasong Poontaneat, the permanent secretary of finance, said the delay was due to the parliament’s approval process and it would not affect the government’s spending on investment.
Chuan Leekpai, the house speaker, said the debate on the budget could extend beyond September 16 and 17 and instead end on September 18. He said there are many MPs waiting in line to argue on the budget.
Santi Promphat, the deputy finance minister, told the parliament on Wednesday that the house’s committee to scrutinize the budget of 721 government agencies have found that the 2021 fiscal budget could actually be lowered by nearly 32 billion baht.
This means that the budget could be worth 3.28 trillion baht instead of the initial proposal of more than 3.3 trillion billion baht.
Santi said the lowering of the budget was based on considerations that some of the projects are no longer relevant to the current situation, such as the funds set aside for setting up seminars that would no longer be arranged within the fiscal 2021 budget year.
He said more than 7.7 billion baht will be cut from the Ministry of Defence’s budget, decreasing from 115.5 billion baht to 107.7 billion baht.
The government’s initial defence funds for fiscal 2021 was valued at 223.4 billion baht pre-COVID in comparison to the 231.7 billion baht that was set aside for fiscal 2020.
Other major cuts include the 1.8 billion baht being taken from the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation which will now be down to 47.1 billion baht. Another 3.8 billion baht will be also cut from the Ministry of Interior’s budget, leaving it with 268.5 billion baht.
Jirayu Houngsub, a Pheu Thai Party’s MP for Bangkok, said that since all of the government’s annual budget came from taxpayers, the Prayut administration should stop wasting their funding on buying things that citizens do not really need right now such as military weapons.
The opposition is calling for the government to lower the fiscal 2021 budget down from 3.3 trillion to 3.2 trillion baht as they are concerned that the government will not be able to make as much income as they expected.
The government has set a revenue target of 2.09 trillion baht for fiscal 2021, similar to the 2.12 trillion baht target in the 2020 fiscal budget.
However, the cabinet approved an additional loan of 214 billion baht in August to compensate for the budget deficit in fiscal 2020 since the Public Debt Management Office estimated that the government could fall below its revenue target by 9 per cent or about 300 billion baht.
Sirikanya Tansakun, a party-list MP from the Move Forward Party, said if the budget is set too high and the government misses its revenue target again in 2021, it could present a risk as the government will be forced to take out a loan to compensate for the budget deficit again.
At the same time, the emergency loan of 1 trillion baht to counter the impact of the coronavirus is already expected to push the public debt to GDP ratio to 57.8 per cent for fiscal 2021. The sustainable public debt limit is set at 60 per cent.
Watana Muangsook, a key member of Pheu Thai, said the government should consider lowering the 2021 fiscal budget by 10 per cent as the government is definitely going to miss the revenue target for the 2020 fiscal year by at least 300 billion baht.
“The economy has yet to recover while the government is already running out of money to pay out pensions to the elderly which was a clear sign that they have missed its revenue target for 2020,” he said.
“The 2021 budget should be reduced and that should be done with cuts to the regular budget that keeps on increasing, especially the budget that was set aside for soldiers which amounted to three times more than the combined amount of soldiers that three developed countries have altogether,” he added.