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Feeding Greed or Need? Parliament’s Extravagant Meal Spendings Sparks Burning Controversy! Will This Be the End of Free Food?

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In the parliamentary system, a recent hullabaloo over meal wastage has come under scrutiny. The issue surfaced when a member of Parliament known for her role in acting, Sirilapas “Mew” Kongtrakarn of the Move Forward Party, was criticized on social media for taking leftover food from the parliamentary canteen. However, her action sparked debates about the handling of leftover food in the parliament that was seen to be a potential source of waste.

Sirilapas, responding to the criticism, posted the image on her Twitter account with over 20,000 followers, explaining that the leftover food would have otherwise been discarded. Public attention was quickly drawn to the surplus meals and beverages supplied to the parliamentary members, causing an outcry for an overhaul of the system in order to curb food waste and thereby judiciously use the public funds spent on such benefits for the lawmakers.

On this account, the president of the parliament, Wan Muhamad Noor Matha expressed his commitment to tackle this issue. Preliminary talks were said to be conducted involving key members like his deputies and House Secretary Pornpit Petcharoen. The primary objective was to provide services to MPs that were both satisfactory and without any overspending or generating of food waste.

“In order to combat this problem, I have already directed them to take appropriate measures,” declared President Wan. He went on to detail the plan for revisiting the topic by mid-month, which might potentially include reassessment of the catering budget.

The parliamentary assembly, which is catered to by the House Secretariat, has set a budget of approximately 72 million baht for the fiscal year of 2023, translating to a 1,000 baht per person per meeting day. This covers two meals, lunch and dinner, along with a morning snack. If meetings extend beyond 8 p.m, additional meals are provided. Special budget earmarks include 34.8 million baht for House committee meetings’ catering, and 1.26 million baht for opposition whip catering services. The overall budget for catering operations for the fiscal year 2023 totals slightly above 108 million baht.

Rangsima Rodrassamee, a veteran politician, appealed to the House Committee on Parliament Affairs to review the regulations overseeing the catering budget and to scrap unnecessary spending habits and food waste. She postulated that food allowances should instead be loaded onto MPs’ ID cards, allowing them to buy food at the parliamentary canteen. Any unutilized funds at the close of the day could be returned.

Last year, the Democrat MP for Samut Songkhram expressed his worries over lawmakers stockpiling food and recommended stricter laws to forbid MPs from carrying away complimentary meal boxes during parliamentary assemblies. “The nation is at a fiscal loss due to the generous availability of free food. Parliament must take necessary measures to rectify this,” he stressed.

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