Sunday, June 13, 2021

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Thanathorn shines a spotlight on rising expenditure of Palace agencies


Amid increasing calls from student activists for reforms to the monarchy, the steep rise in the annual budget for Palace agencies over the years has drawn the attention of netizens.

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Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Progressive Movement and former leader of the disbanded Future Forward Party, said the House committee vetting the national budget bill for fiscal year 2020-21 met on Thursday. The representative from the Budget Bureau spent only two minutes presenting the Palace agencies' budget without giving much details, so he asked for more explanation.
Thanathorn made the revelation in a Facebook post on Friday. 
The annual budget of Palace agencies has been pegged at Bt8.98 billion for the next fiscal year.
Thanathorn is an adviser to the committee and attended the budget scrutiny meeting on Thursday. He took notes and posted the details of the committee's discussions on the Progressive Movement's Facebook page on Friday.
Palace agencies have asked for Bt8.98 billion for 2021 fiscal year (October 2020 to September 2021. The amount was up 16.8 per cent from Bt7.68 billion spent in the current fiscal year, compared to a 3.1 per cent rise in the overall national budget, Thanathorn pointed out.
Thanathorn questioned at Thursday's meeting about the wide gap between estimated and actual spending of Palace agencies from 2018 to 2021. 
According to Budget Bureau records, the estimated spending for fiscal 2018 was Bt4.19 billion, but actual spending was 52.5 per cent higher at Bt6.39 billion.
The estimated expenditure for fiscal 2019 was Bt 4.69 billion while actual spending was Bt6.8 billion; the estimate for fiscal 2020 was Bt5.04 billion while actual spending was Bt 7.68 billion, and the estimate for 2021 is Bt5.41 billion, but Palace agencies are seeking Bt8.98 billion.
Viyada Chotrattanasiri, deputy director at the Budget Bureau, explained to Thanathorn that the government had issued an emergency decree last year to transfer security units from the Defence Ministry to Palace supervision, so that added about Bt2 billion to the Palace agencies' budget in the current fiscal year. Excluding that amount, the budget was actually down by Bt833 million, she noted.
For fiscal 2021, the Defence Ministry had cut its budget by Bt1.3 billion while the budget for personnel of Palace agencies had risen by Bt1.29 billion, she said.
Thanathorn said that he had questioned the increasing budget allocation by the government to Palace agencies, which is on a sharp upward trend until fiscal 2024, with current estimates rising to Bt10.69 billion and the potential of actual spending overshooting the estimate.
He called for a cut in the budget allocation for Palace agencies in line with the overall national budget, saying he was concerned about the fallout of Covid-19 on common people, public debt and dwindling tax revenue.
As of Sunday evening, Thanathorn's Facebook post on the Palace budget had got over 38,000 likes, 3,800 comments and 15,000 shares. 
Thanathorn’s request comes as anti-government protesters put pressure to reform the monarchy, in addition to demanding the drafting a new Constitution, ending government intimidation of people having divergent opinions, and dissolving Parliament.

Published : August 23, 2020

By : Wichit Chaitrong The Nation