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Legal Tightrope: Council of State Questions Thailand’s 500 Billion Baht Loan Strategy

Whispers from the corridors of power indicate that the storied Office of the Council of State is holding its cards close to its chest regarding the dissemination of its highly sought-after legal opinions. There exists a tantalizing agreement, one where the government has been bestowed the exclusive privilege to unveil the legal wisdom imparted by the advisory council.

It’s an open secret that the Council’s musings, while not etched in stone as legal mandates, tend to dance in the government’s playbook, inspiring action with the gentle nudge of respectful consideration. The Council’s recent rumination was no exception, as it injected a dose of legal pragmatism into the mix.

The bubbling cauldron that is the national economy has set the scene for a clash of ideologies. The government, seized by a sense of urgency, has been toying with a hefty 500 billion baht loan bill to quench the economy’s thirst. Yet here comes the twist, wrapped in the Council’s sage advice: isn’t it paradoxical to brandish a bill, a weapon known for its ponderous pace, when time is of the essence?

They probed deeper, suggesting that the response to an economic quicksand ought to be a swift-footed executive decree, as was the traditional response of administrations past. Why the sudden change in modus operandi, you ask? Good question.

Remember the heady days of election campaigns? The leading coalition party, Pheu Thai, trumpeted a blaring pledge to shower 10,000 baht upon each Thai citizen over 16, distributed digitally with a modern flourish. But like a Greek chorus, critics warn of the perils of borrowing 500 billion baht through legislation, spotlighting a potential conflict with the stern mutterings of the 2018 State Fiscal and Financial Discipline Act.

This Act, with its Article 53, is no lightweight. It decrees that off-budget borrowing, the type not laced within the fabric of public debt laws, is reserved only for those critical times when the traditional appropriation process is as sluggish as a snail on a leisurely stroll.

In a move akin to a masterful chess play, the Council of State has looked the government straight in the eye and declared, ‘We do not see the urgency you proclaim.’ They recount the tales of yore when a pandemic gripped the world, and the government, in a nimble-footed response, decreed an executive order to secure the required funds – no months-long legislative process in sight.

It’s not just the recent past they invoke. The Council points to the venerable Constitution, its Article 140 to be precise, and its weighty requirement for loan balancing acts within the budget bill. In layman’s terms, for every baht borrowed, a seat must be reserved for it at the next year’s budgeting table.

Let’s crank up the prophetic crystal ball – the Council foresees the Pheu Thai leaders’ piggy bank falling short of the mammoth 500 billion baht rebate required to settle the score with the digital wallet loan come fiscal 2025. Thus, the plot thickens as legal acumen casts shadows on political ambitions, in a saga of economy and governance that has the nation eagerly turning the page to the next chapter.

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