Protests endanger budget allocation

The political turmoil is putting the fiscal 2015 budget allocation at great risk of long delays, says the Comptroller-General's Department.

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Director-general Manas Jamveha voiced concern that if the latest goal of the anti-government protesters to postpone the election from Feb 2 is successful, a delay in considering budget expenditures for the next fiscal year starting September 2014 will occur.

"Look at the 17 days these protesters seized control of the Finance Ministry and other state agencies recently. Just this alone caused disbursement to miss the target by 100 billion baht," said Mr Manas.

Normally the fiscal expenditure plan for the next fiscal year is reviewed every January.

But since the constitution prohibits a caretaker government from committing any budget to the following fiscal year's plan, Mr Manas expects a delay of four months in planning the 2015 budget.

"But if the election proceeds as scheduled, the fiscal allocation will not be delayed, as a new government can be formed in February and my department will be able to process the requests of all state agencies and send out an expenditure plan in April. The next step will be to seek cabinet approval, and then the allocation will be on schedule," he said.

Mr Manas said current delays in disbursement are the result of uncertainty over how the present situation will end, especially the latest plan by anti-government protesters to paralyse Bangkok starting next Monday.

"This uncertainty has already delayed disbursement for fiscal 2014, and so government agencies have been unable to proceed with their projects," he said.

Mr Manas said the allocation delay has, for instance, affected the planned infrastructure megaprojects.

This will in turn result in slower-than-expected economic growth since that public investment was intended to stimulate the economy even though the budget deficit of 240 billion baht for fiscal 2014 will be lower than planned.

"We cannot predict how short of the target the fiscal expenditures will fall since the situation has yet to stabilise," said Mr Manas.

In any case, the Finance Ministry will have to use Treasury reserves for fixed expenses such as officials' salaries, but such spending should not last longer than six months.

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