No government shutdown, finance minister assures, as budget crisis continues for government

Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana insisted on Friday that there will be no government shutdown as the validity of the 2020 fiscal bill hangs in the balance.

Parliament finally passed its long-delayed budget for the 2020 fiscal year two weeks ago, but its validity is now in question because of irregularity during the voting process.  

Speaker of the House, Chuan Leekpai, has asked the Constitutional Court to rule on the validity of the 2020 fiscal budget after it emerged that voting irregularity in the House of Representatives may have breached constitutional norms.

According to members of the opposition and the ruling coalition, several MPs were not present during the vote on the bill but had friends submit their vote for them, a breach of procedure.

The long-delayed budget, worth 3.2 trillion baht (US$105.89 billion) and due to come into effect at the beginning of February, had lifted concerns over government spending when it was passed but is once again in disarray.

Both Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha and economy tsar, Somkid Jatusripitak, have expressed their concerns over the further delay of the budget bill.

Somkid said yesterday that as the bill needs to be deemed valid by the Constitutional Court and receive royal endorsement, by the time the budget comes into effect there could only be four months left in the fiscal year to disburse the budget.

“I personally believe that there will be no shutdown,” he told reporters. “All related agencies are discussing for ways to make sure that there will be no stumbling…We can still pay the wages for our civil servants and we are using the 2019 fiscal budget. If there is further delay, we will extend it (last year’s budget).”

With global demand slowing down, government fiscal spending is seen as one of the vital engines that will support Thailand’s economic recovery this year.

Already under pressure over stagnating domestic growth and a weak export sector, the government will hope that the crisis comes to an end sooner rather than later.  

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