Factors that could shoot down 500-bn digital wallet borrowing bill
The government’s controversial digital wallet scheme is at risk from growing opposition to its 500-billion-baht funding plan.
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who doubles as finance minister, has announced that his government will launch a bill to borrow 500 billion baht to finance the 10,000-baht handout scheme, due to start in May next year.
The timeframe means the government must flex its majority in the House of Representatives to force the bill through three readings as quickly as possible.
Any delay during vetting after it passes the first reading might lead to the bill getting stuck in the Senate and not passing in time for the scheme’s scheduled launch in May.
The vetting period for bills can last anything between seven and 90 days.
So, the government will also have to use its muscle on the vetting committee to ensure the funding bill gets a fast green light.
After passing the third reading in the House, the bill will go to the Senate, which has a deadline of 30 days to examine financial bills. However, this period can be extended by another 30 days.
Worse still, if the Senate makes significant changes to the bill, a joint panel of MPs and senators will need more time to iron out the differences.
And if the joint panel’s version is still rejected by the House, the bill will have to be suspended for 180 days before the House can restore and pass the version that cleared the third reading.
Any significant delay in the Senate would prevent the bill from being passed in time for May.
The bill could also face more hurdles from three independent organisations – the State Audit Office of Thailand, the Election Commission and the National Anti-Corruption Commission.
If one of these organisations decides the bill violates the charter or the Fiscal and Financial Discipline Act, it will ask the Constitutional Court for a ruling on whether the legislation is constitutional or not. The Constitutional Court would be the last hurdle for the bill. But even if the three organisations do not send the bill to court, the Ombudsman’s Office could still shoot down the legislation. Political activists have already filed a complaint against the bill with the ombudsmen, seeking a ruling.