By Randy Thanthong-KnightJanuary 11, 2020, 5:42 PM GMT+7
- Budget was due to be implemented Oct. 1 but has been delayed
- Bill’s approval strengthens the pro-military ruling coalition
Thailand’s parliament approved the annual budget after a months-long delay, providing a fillip for the country’s struggling economy.
The 3.2 trillion baht ($106 billion) spending plan received the backing of 253 lawmakers Saturday in Bangkok, with 196 abstaining. Outlays were supposed to start Oct. 1 but were delayed by government formation and the legislative process after last year’s general election, which ended a prolonged period under a junta.
Implementation of the 3.2 trillion baht budget is due from February
The passage of the bill strengthens the pro-military ruling coalition, whose slim parliamentary majority became a little more comfortable after recent by-elections. The vote was viewed as a test of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha’s ability to shepherd key legislation through a bitterly divided legislature.
The fiscal plan is set to be implemented from February, based on a government time-line. The ruling alliance could tighten its grip on power if, as many expect, a key opposition party is dissolved by a court in coming weeks.
A sizable opposition bloc in the lower house questions the administration’s legitimacy, viewing it as a continuation of military control.
A protest against the ruling alliance, in the form of an early morning jog billed as a “Run Against Dictatorship,” is due Sunday in Bangkok. Organizers say 10,000 have registered for the event. A separate walk is scheduled in the capital as a show of support for Prayuth’s leadership.
The Thai economy may expand 2.8% this year, up from a five-year-low of 2.5% in 2019, based on central bank estimates. A surging currency damaged exports and tourism last year.
“The fiscal engine has been taken away from last year’s economic growth momentum, but this year we should expect to see more activities, more impact coming from the fiscal engine,” Bank of Thailand Governor Veerathai Santiprabhob said in an interview Jan. 8.