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Members of the opposition parties are taking aim at a 20-year national strategy plan implemented by the former military junta which binds political parties to its policies under the current constitution.
According to several opposition leaders, the plan is outdated and it is creating budgeting problems for 2023 fiscal year.
“The national strategy plan is a problem and is contributing to a tight fiscal budget situation for 2023, which is similar to what happened with the 2022 fiscal budget,” Paopoom Rojanasakul, the Deputy Secretary-General of the Pheu Thai Party, told Thai Enquirer on Wednesday.
The Cabinet on Tuesday approved the details of the 2023 fiscal budget worth 3.185 trillion baht, an increase of 2.74 per cent or 85 billion baht from the 2022 fiscal budget.
“There is no flexibility here because according to the law, the highest fiscal deficit we can reach this year is 717 billion and the 2023 fiscal budget set a deficit of 695 billion baht which means that there is only 22 billion left for a possible increase and this gap is very small,” said Paopoom.
He said with the deficit being too close to the ceiling, there could be a problem if the government missed it tax collection target or if something major happens to the global economy.
“This is very tight and the lack of flexibility could create problems later,” he said.
Paopoom said that the 2023 fiscal budget is not up to scratch since the economy required a higher budget to recover from the impact caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The budget was also based on the assumption that the country’s GDP will be able to grow by 3.7 per cent in 2022 but this assumption did not take into account the rising inflation, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the prolonging of the Omicron wave.
“There is a high chance that the economy will not be able to grow by 3.7 per cent this year which means that there is a high chance that the government will not able to meet their tax collection target and they will have to take out loans.”
Paopoom said this outdatedness is partly because of the National Strategy which was written more than four years ago before the Covid pandemic, the boom of cryptocurrency in Thailand, the launch of the metaverse and the rise of automation vehicles.
“It was written when the word Covid was not even widely known and it was written after the previous junta took over with lack public participation so therefore, it can never be up to date,” he said.
“This national strategy has been creating problems for the drafting of the fiscal budget every year since it came into effect,” he said.
Nattawut Buaprathum, the Deputy Leader of the Move Forward Party, told Thai Enquirer on Wednesday that the National Strategy is obsolete because it does not take into account the current economic climate.
“The target is not in line with reality and the current situation so the strategy must be updated every four or five years,” he said.
He said public agencies are not truly implementing the strategy in their projects and end up doing the same projects over and over again before reporting to the parliament that they were just following the national strategy.
“Public agencies and servants are not well-informed on how to implement the strategy and if this is allowed to continue then nothing will be improved and it is wasteful when agencies are just cutting and pasting to make it look like their projects are in line with the national strategy,” he said.