Thailand News Today | Govt announces 3.2-trillion-baht spending bill
Opposition Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat has slammed PM Prayut Chan-o-cha’s spending plans ahead of tomorrow’s budget bill as “pointless.”
PM Prayut will defend the government’s 3.2-trillion-baht 2023 budget bill in a three-day House debate starting tomorrow, explaining why the sum is so large and his spending plans for the fiscal year.
But the Move Forward Party leader landed the first blow prior to the debate saying his party could never approve a budget that does not support the nation’s economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic.
Pita believes the PM’s plans only address existing needs, and that only 30% of the budget is going toward the future management of the kingdom.
He said “It is pointless to pool more than 500 billion baht in the central budget, the largest portion of the entire bill, when up to 80% of that amount will fund the payment of pensions and healthcare costs of civil servants.
“The largest increase in budget allocation planned for the 2023 fiscal year will go to the state enterprises, such as the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives, so that it can retrospectively pay a subsidy to farmers under a programme which had begun all the way back in 2008.”
The PM made public that around 79% of the allocation will go toward funding fixed expenses while the rest will finance investment projects, in a budget that is 85 billion baht higher than that of 2022.
Around 270 billion baht has been set aside for 265 projects aimed at reducing poverty in five core areas of development. Finance projects offering aid to the poor and vulnerable groups will be boosted to the tune of 173 billion baht, including the 13.4 million people who hold state welfare cards, 2.6 million disabled people, 2.6 million young children, and 880,000 people living with HIV/Aids.
Almost 18.2-billion-baht will be injected into the education sector to aid children in poor families and support costs associated with the 660,000 young children who attend day care centres across the country.
The universal healthcare scheme, which currently takes care of around 13.5 million Thais, will benefit from a 70.1-billion-baht investment.
Farmers will get help to reduce their production costs and improve irrigation, and there are plans to subsidise farmland by around 7.2 billion baht for the poor as well as improve access to running water for about 200,000 households in remote areas.
Lastly, around 2.2 billion baht has been set aside to fund projects to help those suffering serious social problems.
The Thai government has refuted the opposition’s claim that it is ignoring the plight of the country’s tourism sector. According to a Nation Thailand report, spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana says the government’s decision to cancel Test & Go has revived the tourism industry, with around 20,000 foreign arrivals now entering the kingdom each day.
Thanakorn adds that if this trend continues, Thailand should see around half a million arrivals a month during the low season of May – September, with most expected to come from the short-haul market. This figure is expected to double during the high season period between October and December, as travellers from Europe and the US flee winter.
He adds that once Chinese tourists start travelling again, the number of foreign arrivals in Thailand should climb to around 50% of pre-pandemic levels. Based on this, Thailand should see around 1.5 trillion baht in tourism revenue this year.
Thanakorn points out that even though the Test & Go entry scheme has been cancelled, foreign arrivals are still required to register through the Thailand Pass system, providing proof of Covid-19 vaccination or a negative PCR test within 72 hours of departure from the home country. A requirement for Covid-19 insurance coverage of US$10,000 also remains in place.
The CCSA recently decided to cancel the Thailand Pass registration from June 1 for returning Thai citizens. However, it remains a requirement for foreign nationals travelling to the kingdom. Thanakorn has also confirmed that all border checkpoints will reopen from next month.
The owners of bars, clubs, and other nightlife venues in Bangkok have expressed frustration with conditions governing the June 1 re-opening.
From Wednesday, such businesses can re-open, provided they are located in the 31 blue or green zones, adhere to disease prevention measures, and close by midnight.
It’s the midnight closure that most are finding frustrating, with several business owners describing the reopening as pointless as long as this stipulation is in force. According to a Bangkok Post report, one nightlife venue on Khao San Road points out that the government’s rigid clinging to Covid restrictions, including requiring overseas arrivals to take out expensive insurance coverage, is driving foreign tourists to neighbouring countries.
The president of the Khao San Road Business Association agrees, saying Wednesday’s re-opening will make little difference to nightlife venues in the capital. Sanga Ruangwattanakul says that in order to give businesses a chance to recover, opening hours need to be extended past midnight. He points out that if venues can remain open until 2am from September, this would generate an extra 300 – 400 billion baht for the economy.
Sanga is also calling for the emergency decree to be revoked and for the government to get rid of the communicable disease control law, both of which he says are proving a deterrent to foreign tourists.
He says “The outbreak is easing and most people are fully vaccinated. Japan has already relaxed outdoor face-mask rules. But because the government is still afraid of this and that, we will be left behind.”
Health officials in Thailand say that while no cases of the monkeypox virus have been detected in the kingdom, at-risk groups should remain vigilant.
The Department of Disease Control reports that a patient, with a suspected case of monkeypox, recently tested negative. DDC chief Dr Opas Karnkawinpong says the patient was found to be infected with the herpes simplex virus and discharged after 2 days of treatment.
According to a Nation Thailand report, the DDC emergency operations centre has issued an update based on the WHO’s latest report on the global monkeypox situation. In that report, officials say current at-risk groups, including gay men, should be monitored.
Anyone can contract the monkeypox virus by having close contact with an infected patient, but in countries where the virus is spreading, more cases have been reported among the male homosexual communities at this stage.
The DDC has recommended that the government launch public awareness campaigns among at-risk groups, in order to provide information on prevention and how to check for symptoms. Symptoms can include fever, headache, a rash, and swollen lymph glands.
Monkeypox is NOT related to Shingles or caused as a symptom of the mRNA Covid vaccines – both false claims are currently circulating in world social media.
Meanwhile, Thai officials are increasing health screening at airports, as the number of arrivals from at-risk countries increases as travel restrictions are eased. To date, 20 countries, across Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas, have reported more than 300 cases of the monkeypox virus. Travellers from those countries now face additional screening at Thai airports and are also being provided with advisory notices on monitoring and reporting symptoms.
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