Thai MPs to debate against US$68b loan bill

By The Nation | Source: ANN

Up to 60 opposition Thai MPs will debate against the 2 trillion baht loan bill (US$68 billion), questioning its suitability and potential for corruption, the chief opposition whip said yesterday.

Jurin Laksanavisit told a press conference that the Democrat and Bhum Jai Thai parties had designated some 60 MPs to debate against the bill.

The House has scheduled Thursday and Friday for the first reading of the bill, which would authorise the Finance Ministry to obtain loans worth 2 trillion baht for development of transport infrastructure.

Jurin said the opposition would be allowed 12-and-a-half hours to debate the bill, with a four-hour extension if necessary. He said opposition whips were concerned about two points related to the bill.

First, they feared infrastructure loans might be abused or siphoned off, as with alleged corruption in the rice-pledging scheme.

Second, they feared the loans would burden the public with up to 5 trillion baht in debt because they would attract 3 trillion baht in interest that the government would have to repay. He said the period of debt repayment could stretch across 12 governments.

Jurin said opposition whips were calling on the government to refrain from using the “blackmail tactic” of bringing up alleged corruption in the Strengthening Thailand loan legislation passed during the last Democrat-led administration. “If the [government] coalition uses that tactic, it will waste time for debate on the 2-trillion baht loan bill,” Jurin said.

Democrat MP and whip Sansern Samalapha said the opposition would use the debate to point out that the government would seek loans for projects that had not yet been approved by Cabinet.

Bhum Jai Thai MP Supachai Jaisamut, an opposition whip, said seven Bhum Jai Thai MPs would take part in the debate, including Chai Chidchob, Boonjong Wongtrairat, Sopon Sarum, and Rungroj Thongsri.

Supachai said Bhum Jai Thai would note it may be inappropriate to seek the loans now, when the country is not in good economic shape. He said Boonjong would debate the general terms of the bill while Chai would focus on alleged irregularities in preparing the budget for the projects.

Supachai said he would point out that loans stemming from the bill would violate fiscal discipline. Sopon said Bhum Jai Thai would be given two hours, and that he would conclude the debate.

Chuwit Kamolvisit, Rak Prathet Thai party-list MP, said he would contribute by highlighting problems related to the country’s transport system.

*US$1=29.3 baht

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