State promises B300bn ‘enough’ to fight outbreak


A healthcare worker takes a nasal swab to test for Covid-19.
A healthcare worker takes a nasal swab to test for Covid-19.

The government has insisted it has at least 300 billion baht available in funds to fight a fresh Covid-19 outbreak.

Dechapiwat Na Songkhla, the Budget Bureau’s director, said the 300 billion baht available to fend off a fresh round of infections stems from the fiscal 2021 budget, of which 40 billion was set aside as the central budget.

Of the 40 billion baht in the central budget, 20 billion has been allocated for vaccines, rewarding healthcare-related personnel and building field hospitals. The balance can be used to fight the fresh round of infections, he said.

“We still believe the budget we’ve reserved is enough to manage the new outbreak if it does not spread nationwide,” said Mr Dechapiwat.

He said the government has spent only 4 billion baht on human resources and swab tests during the second wave.

According to Mr Dechapiwat, the government still has another chunk of the budget in the Annual Expenditure Budget Act for 2021, or the central budget in case of an emergency, which has been set at 99 billion baht for use in the event of a natural disaster.

Spending for an emergency situation is estimated at 50 billion baht if there are no serious natural disasters. The remaining 40 billion baht can be redirected as additional spending to fight a third wave, he said.

In addition, the government still has more than 200 billion baht left from the 1-trillion-baht loan decree aimed at rehabilitating and stimulating the economy after the pandemic, said Mr Dechapiwat.

“Once such budgets are combined in fiscal 2021, the government will have a total of 260 billion baht in fiscal 2021 to cope with Covid-19,” he said.

Although the 260 billion baht is to be disbursed by September (the last month of fiscal 2021), the government is eligible to extend the spending period in case of necessity, said Mr Dechapiwat.

More importantly, in the fiscal 2022 expenditure budget scheduled to kick off in October this year, a central budget for emergencies is set at 89 billion baht, even though spending in such cases is estimated at 30-40 billion if there are no serious natural disasters, he said.

“In the event of a serious rise in infections and additional budget requirement, the government can review the budget through an ad hoc committee and propose to cut the annual investment budget for new projects worth 30-40 billion baht to tackle the impact of Covid-19 instead,” said Mr Dechapiwat.

The ad hoc committee is scheduled to vet the 2022 budget appropriation bill between May and July.

Krisada Chinavicharana, permanent secretary for finance, said the ministry is evaluating the impact of the new round of infections before it comes up with any additional relief measures.

However, he said the key factor is how effectively the government can prevent the spread of the outbreak.

The government still has an estimated 250 billion baht left from the 1-trillion-baht loan decree that could be used to help the economy, said Mr Krisada.



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