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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs           25   July  2011

Budget tweaking could finance new Thai programs

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The new Thai government should be able to find about 200 billion baht (US$6.6 billion) to support some of its ambitious spending programs by making adjustments to the 2012 fiscal budget, according to Budget Bureau director Valairat Sriaroon.

Pheu Thai Party strategists are currently working on proposals to revise the budget, which was passed by the outgoing Democrat-led coalition before the July 3 election, said Miss Valairat.

The previous draft for the fiscal year that begins on October 1 set expenditures at 2.25 trillion baht and revenue of 1.9 trillion, producing a deficit of 350 billion baht.

Miss Valairat said that about 70 percent of the budget was for fixed expenditures including civil service salaries, debt repayments and other obligations. "These expenses are fixed and are hard to adjust," she said.

The rest of the budget is for expenditures to support government policies such as 15 years of free education, the school milk program, universal healthcare and farm price guarantees.

Those programs require a total of about 400 billion baht. However, about half of this amount could support new Pheu Thai program that would cost about the same as similar ones carried out by its predecessor.

For example, she said, money for the revival of rice mortgages could be taken from the budget that would have been spent on the Democrats' farm price guarantee program. Similarly, funds from the existing school computer program could be used to help the new administration purchase tablet computers for school children as it has promised.

However, the Budget Bureau expects the effective date of the fiscal 2012 budget may have to be delayed from Oct 1 to January next year, given the change in administration. In any case, state agencies would be able to spend from the existing 2011 fiscal budget before the amended 2012 budget is approved.

Miss Valairat also said that the revenue projection for 2011 of 1.77 trillion baht had been revised up to 1.83 trillion in light of healthy economic conditions, so the deficit would be less than the 420 billion baht forecast previously.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

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It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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