Thai PM Srettha proposes $101.52 billion budget to fuel economic recovery

As Srettha outlined the budget, its allocation across various sectors came into focus. Key sectors receiving attention include infrastructure development, healthcare, education, and technology.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin kicked off a three-day parliamentary debate on Wednesday by presenting a comprehensive 3.48 trillion baht ($101.52 billion) budget proposal. Emphasizing its pivotal role in propelling the nation’s economy forward, Srettha stated, “The budget is crucial in moving the economy forward.” The budget is expected to undergo parliamentary scrutiny this week, with final approval anticipated by early May.

Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy is positioned for growth in 2024, with estimates ranging between 2.7% and 3.7%. Srettha underscored the importance of this budget in supporting the anticipated economic expansion. However, the context is framed by Thailand’s recent economic challenges, as the country experienced a lower-than-expected growth rate of 1.5% in the July-September quarter of the previous year. This sluggish growth was attributed to weakened exports and a decline in government spending.

As Srettha outlined the budget, its allocation across various sectors came into focus. Key sectors receiving attention include infrastructure development, healthcare, education, and technology. The allocation strategy reflects a multifaceted approach to spur economic recovery and ensure sustained growth.

In addition to economic growth, the prime minister shed light on the inflation outlook. Expectations are set within a range of 1.7% to 2.7%, indicating a measured and balanced approach to fiscal policy. Srettha emphasized the need for fiscal prudence, acknowledging the delicate balance between stimulating economic activity and maintaining stability in prices. This cautious approach aligns with global economic uncertainties and regional challenges that could impact Thailand’s economic trajectory.

The budget proposal now faces a thorough examination by parliamentarians during the three-day debate. Lawmakers are expected to scrutinize specific allocations, questioning their alignment with national priorities and their potential impact on targeted sectors. Public reaction to the budget is diverse, with stakeholders expressing both optimism and concerns. Some applaud the government’s proactive stance, while others scrutinize specific allocations, urging transparency and accountability in budget utilization.

The economic headwinds faced by Thailand, including the global economic slowdown and the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, underscore the need for resilience in the proposed budget. Srettha acknowledged these challenges, emphasizing the importance of strategic investments and targeted stimulus measures to navigate uncertainties successfully. The budget, therefore, serves not only as a financial plan but as a roadmap for economic resilience and adaptive governance.

Recognizing the transformative power of technological advancements, the government aims to position Thailand as a regional leader in technological innovation. Allocations for research and development, digital infrastructure, and the promotion of a technology-driven ecosystem indicate a forward-looking approach to driving sustainable and inclusive growth in the digital age.

A critical aspect is the timeline for its implementation. Srettha’s government aims to have the budget ready for implementation by early May. The efficient execution of the budget relies on robust monitoring mechanisms to ensure that allocated funds are utilized effectively and transparently.