Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Focus is on rebuilding, recovery, says Yingluck

n a special meeting, the cabinet has given the green light for emergency spending of a massive 20.1 billion baht for post-flood rehabilitation.
One extreme to another
TheYom River has receded, exposing its cracked bed, in Phitsanulok’s Bang Rakam district, as the area suffers a drought. Only last month, the river burst its banks and flooded homes and farmland. CHINNAWAT SINGHA
The funds are to be used for recovery and rebuilding efforts.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday said the government needed to ensure it had enough money to spend while waiting for the passage of the 2012 budget bill which is expected in February.
'This is part of an emergency plan of the government's flood-relief programme. It is part of a 60 billion baht budget approved earlier," she said.
The government previously gave the nod to spend 60 billion baht for flood-relief and rehabilitation schemes.
The 20 billion baht in urgent spending was reviewed by the Budget Bureau and the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB).
The government estimates the flood damage at 1.3 trillion baht and has a plan to invest in long-term flood defences to restore investor confidence.
In total, the Pheu Thai-led administration plans to spend 120 billion on flood recovery and flood prevention.
Ms Yingluck said the 20 billion baht would mostly be split into two portions _ rehabilitating damaged farmland and restoring flood-damaged infrastructure.
She said there would also be projects to stimulate the economy and alleviate people's hardship.
Ms Yingluck said the cabinet yesterday also looked into the spending plans of state agencies to avoid spending overlaps.
According to Ms Yingluck, funds had been sought to implement flood relief and rehabilitation projects before the government appointed the committee to formulate strategies to rehabilitate and rebuild the country.
"We have to make sure that every baht is properly disbursed to address the needs," she said.
She noted there were some areas of overlap and agencies have been instructed to resolve these.
She said they may need to coordinate with the government-appointed committee on water resources management strategies to deal with flood problems.
The prime minister said the cabinet has also put in place a mechanism to ensure budget spending transparency.
She said cabinet ministers have been assigned to work closely with governors while ministries must send inspectors-general to scrutinise spending.
The prime minister also held a video conference with provincial governors yesterday and urged them to speed up disbursement of 5,000 baht in compensation to each flood-hit household.
Government spokeswoman Thitima Chaisang said yesterday the emergency 20 billion baht budget could be disbursed within three days after the request is made to the Budget Bureau.
She said the money would be spent to rehabilitate three areas _ the economy, the quality of people's lives and public infrastructure.
A cabinet source said the budget could roughly be broken down into nine schemes: 5,000 baht compensation for each flood-affected households in Bangkok and 62 other provinces (13.1 billion baht); rehabilitation of people's quality of life 314.5 million baht); education support for schools and students (456 million baht); healthcare services (121.9 million baht); compensation for laid-off workers (606 million baht); setting up community "Fix It" centres (17.8 million baht); restoring historical sites (1.38 billion baht); reconstruction of road networks (1.81 billion baht); and repair of rural roads (139.8 million baht).
The source said there was a dispute between Ms Yingluck and Education Minister Woravat Au-apinyakul about "priority spending".
Mr Woravat was not happy that his ministry's proposed spending of 2.41 billion baht was not included.
Ms Yingluck told him that it was not possible to approve all of his proposed projects and asked him to prioritise the spending, the source said.
The education minister was adamant the ministry's budget request of 2.41 billion baht was all necessary. It had been cut from 5 billion baht.
NESDB representatives clarified that the amount was likely to be included in the next round of disbursement tentatively scheduled for February.
Mr Woravat told the cabinet the approved budget was not adequate to repair 2,600 flood-hit schools.
Transport Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat intervened, insisting revisions were necessary otherwise there would not be enough money for rehabilitation.