The Thai Parliament passes an annual budget of $ 93 billion as the outlook weakens
The Thai parliament approved the country’s annual budget, which aims to increase spending on fighting the Covid-19 outbreak while reducing spending on defense and education as government revenues come under pressure due to deteriorating growth prospects.
The 3.1 trillion baht ($ 93 billion) spending plan for the fiscal year beginning October 1 received support from 257 lawmakers. A total of 189 voted against and four abstained after a four-day debate, according to the result of a parliamentary vote on Sunday. The budget expenditure is 5.8% less than the 3.29 trillion baht for this year and the budget deficit is set at 700 billion baht.
The budget approval came amid mounting criticism and public protests against the government’s handling of the pandemic, which exceeded 1 million cases and killed nearly 9,000 on Friday. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha and five other ministers will face a vote of no confidence early next month, with opposition parties pushing for no-confidence debates to highlight the government’s failure.
Spending on various government departments, including defense, education and finance, has been reduced to provide more money to contain the outbreak and accelerate the economic recovery. Thailand’s central bank governor this week called for additional government spending of 1 trillion baht to counter the blow to the economy from the pandemic.
An unstoppable spike in infections fueled by the more contagious Delta variant has forced the government to extend tough restrictions on regions where more than 40% of the Thai population lives and accounts for more than three-quarters of the Thai economy. Earlier this week, the country’s main economic planning body cut this year’s growth forecast to a range of 0.7% to 1.2%, from 1.5% to 2.5% forecast in May.
Thailand reported 19,014 new cases on Sunday, the lowest number of daily infections since August 3, while the death toll was 233. The total accumulated infections rose to 1.05 million. The country has given about 25.8 million vaccine doses, enough to feed about 18.5% of the population, according to Bloomberg Covid-19 Vaccine Tracker.
The virus situation had been quite stable in the past week, said Grandpa Karnkawinpong, director general of the Department of Disease Control, on Saturday. The government has approved a plan to procure 120 million vaccines over the next year for child protection and booster shots. To this end, the country has held talks to import at least 50 million cans each from Pfizer and AstraZeneca, which if developed in time, would be the equivalent of the second generation.
In the past few weeks, anti-government protesters have taken to the streets at almost daily gatherings in Bangkok to call for Prayuth to step down. They accuse the government of mishandling containment efforts and the introduction of vaccinations, which resulted in less than 8% of the population being fully vaccinated.