Tuesday, September 21, 2021

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Bangkok bus rehab plan calls for suspension of Bt130bn debt


A proposal to suspend repayment of the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA)’s Bt130 billion debt to the Finance Ministry will be put to the Cabinet next month, deputy PM and Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said on Monday.

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The proposed seven-year debt moratorium is part of the Land Transport Department’s rehabilitation plan for the Bangkok bus operator. The plan was agreed at a BMTA meeting chaired by Anutin yesterday.

Under the plan, the Finance Ministry will suspend repayments provided that the state-run BMTA begins operating at a profit within seven years.
Bangkok city authorities say the heavy debt burden prevents the operator from functioning effectively.

The BMTA and its executives will face a performance evaluation once the Cabinet approves the rehab plan and debt suspension. If the operator is unable to turn a profit after its debt burden is lifted, privatisation might be the next step.

" I think it's more of a reset. This [repayment suspension] will stop the bleeding and give the BMTA breathing space from the interest burden. Then it can find a way to manage the existing debt, for instance by gradually paying it off in the long term, or whatever is in the final proposed plan,” said Anutin.

The BMA had accumulated problems for more than four decades and could not solve the issues using the same methods, he added.
The rehab plan also covers cutting the number of bus routes to 162, safeguarding the BMTA’s priority rights for licences to operate new or changed routes, and a flat one-day fare, previously reported as Bt30.

Published : September 14, 2020

By : The Nation