PM holds urgent meetings with Thailand’s economic tsars today

The PM has put himself in control of Thailand’s economic matters nominating himself as Chairman of the Council of Economic Affairs. Today the PM Prayut Chan-o-cha holds talks with top officials of four key economic institutions on the budget bill as the economy, which has been a regional leader over the past decade, stutters.

Academics are calling for cuts in military spending as the new government prepares to set the expenditure budget for fiscal 2020, while urging the administration to spend more on economic reform, education and public health.

Prayut is meeting with representatives from Finance Ministry, Budget Bureau, National Economic and Social Development Council and the Bank of Thailand today. He says his priority is to push through the budget bill which is expected to be delayed by about four months from the normal starting date in October.

The new government is expected to set the expenditure target at 3.2-3.3 trillion baht, running a modest deficit of about 450 billion baht, according to The Nation.

The expenditure on military hardware is expected to be closely scrutinised by the opposition and the public. Over the past five years under military rule, critics had blamed the junta-backed government for the rises in military budget under the Defence Ministry, such as the purchase of Chinese-made submarines with tax-payers’ money.

Somchai Sujjapongse, former permanent secretary for finance, said that military spending should be cut and more funding should be allocated in support of the low and middle income groups and education”.

“Cyber-war is here, no need for tanks and other military hardware.”

Nada Chansom, an economist at the School of Development Economics, National Institute of Development Administration NIDA, shared a similar view with Somchai, saying that the budget on national security should be reduced in order to increase spending on education, public health and economic restructuring.

“The global economic slowdown, strengthening of the baht and the slide in Thai exports will pose serious challenges for the new government.”

Meanwhile, the Bank of Thailand reports that overall economic activity in the second quarter of 2019 expanded moderately from the same period last year. Merchandise exports continued to contract, consistent with the decline in manufacturing production, while the tourism sector expanded at a slower rate, mainly due to a decline in the number of Chinese tourists.

However, overall domestic demand continued to expand, albeit at a softer pace. Private consumption softened from almost all spending categories, except non-durable goods. Private investment contracted in both investment in machinery and equipment and investment in construction.

SOURCE: The Nation

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