After the House of Representatives had voted to approve the first reading of the bill on the Government's two-trillion-baht loan for infrastructure mega-projects, Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office Varathep Ratanakorn said that all the infrastructure investment projects would be scrutinized at all stages.
Speaking in the weekly program “Yingluck Government Meets the People” on 30 March 2013, Mr. Varathep said that the bill requires the planned projects to be initially screened by three government agencies before being submitted to the Cabinet for consideration.
The three agencies include the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board, the Ministry of Finance, and the Bureau of the Budget. At the end of the fiscal year, the Government will be required to report to Parliament results of the implementation of the projects. During the implementation period, House committees and Senate committees may call for an examination of the projects at all times.
The House of Representatives on the night of 29 March 2013 voted 284 against 152 to pass the bill on the two-trillion-baht loan in the first reading. Twenty-one MPs abstained and seven refused to vote. A 36-member committee was formed to scrutinize the bill within 30 days before the second reading.
The Opposition agreed that the country needed huge investment in infrastructure development, but it was against the issuance of the bill, instead of acquiring funding through the national budget, since the bill would put a heavy debt burden on the country. When interest is combined, the country would repay five trillion baht for the loan within 50 years.
Mr. Varathep explained that liabilities should be mentioned together with assets and that the loan would create national income, thus greatly benefiting the country in the long run. If the Government did not begin the projects today, prices would go up and the country would pay more. He said that the projects, involving mainly transportation and logistics, would bring in enormous income from tourism and reduce production costs for exports. So in terms of assets, Thai people would gain a lot from the projects.
He said that the huge investment projects would bring about significant changes in Thailand’s transportation networks, with the introduction of the new rail system to help save energy costs. Acquiring funding for the projects through the national budget might lead to disruption, as their fate would be dependent on the policies of future governments. The issuance of the bill to secure the loan would ensure the continuation of the projects and create more confidence among investors, Mr. Varathep said.
A group of parliamentarians plans to ask the Constitutional Court to interpret the legality of the bill. Mr. Varathep said that the group had the right to do so, at the same time stressing that the bill was constitutional.