Thai government's US$102 billion budget clears first parliamentary vote

BANGKOK (Reuters): The Thai government's 3.753 trillion baht (US$102 billion) budget for the 2025 fiscal year passed its first parliamentary vote on Friday, but there will be a series of further votes before it can be enacted.

After a three-day debate, the draft budget bill, aimed at kick-starting the economy, passed with 311 votes in favour and 175 against as the Pheu Thai Party-led government commands a majority in the House of Representatives.

The 2025 budget for the year starting Oct. 1 projects a 7.8% rise in spending and an increase of 24.9% in the budget deficit to 865.7 billion baht from the 2024 fiscal year.

The bill will still need to pass second and third readings in the lower house, expected in August, before being sent for senate and royal approval.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has said the expansionary budget was needed to stimulate a sluggish economy, and on Friday said he expected to announce additional stimulus measures early next week.

The government is targeting economic growth of at least 3% this year, after last year's 1.9% expansion lagged regional peers.

The government has said some 152.7 billion baht of the 2025 budget would be used to finance its signature 500 billion-baht "digital wallet" handout programme.

The scheme, which involves a giveaway of 10,000 baht per person to 50 million Thais to be spent in their communities, has been delayed to the fourth quarter this year due to funding issues. Economists and two former central bank governors have said the programme is fiscally irresponsible.

The government has said it will finance the policy from the 2024 and 2025 budgets and with capital from a state-owned bank.

The budget debate comes as Srettha faces a Constitutional Court case that could potentially lead to his dismissal. The prime minister denies any wrongdoing, and the next hearing in the case is set for July 10. ($1 = 36.72 baht)

(Reporting by Orathai Sriring and Panarat Thepgumpanat in Bangkok Editing by John Mair and Matthew Lewis) - Reuters

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