PM blames reduced education budget on fewer students due to declining birth rate

Thailand’s declining birth rate over the past several years has resulted in fewer students and a commensurate reduction in education budget, from about 330 billion baht this fiscal year to about 325.9 billion baht for 2023, said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in parliament, as he responded to opposition MPs’ questions about why the education budget had been cut, today (Wednesday), the second day of the three-day first reading debate on the annual national budget.

The birth rate in Thailand has been steadily falling over the past 5 years. Approximately 702,000 births were recorded in 2017. In 2020, however, there were only about 587,000, which is the first time in 70 years that the rate has fallen below 600,000. The figure continued to decrease in 2021, when about 544,000 were recorded, the first year in which there were fewer births than deaths, recorded at around 563,000.

Despite the cut, the Education Ministry will still receive the largest slice of the national budget cake, compared to other ministries, followed by Defence, which is set to receive 325.5 billion baht should the bill passed unchanged.

The prime minister assured that the government is, however, fully committed to the promotion of education and promised to provide more funding form the Central Fund if needed.

Noting that his mother was a school teacher and that he used to teach at a military academy himself, the prime minister maintained that his government has always given educational promotion for human resources development, both teachers and students, first priority.

He said that more schools have been built in remote areas so that students don’t have to travel far to attend classes.

Regarding allegations of position trading, implying that several education officials paid under the table to get promoted, the prime minister said that the Education Ministry has put on hold the budget for promotions pending an investigation and the budget will be restored once everything is clear.

The prime minister said that he has been working hard every day as he insisted that he has never abused his position to interfere in matters for the benefit of any individual, including those close to him.

As a human being, the prime minister admitted that he, sometimes, is quite emotional, but promised that he will try his best to keep it under control.

He thanked the opposition MPs who give positive feedback on the budget bill and promised that the budget will be adjusted during the scrutiny period, after the passing of the first reading of the bill.

The Opposition has vowed to vote against the draft bill, deemed to be incorrectly proportioned, but remains uncertain if there will be enough votes to scupper it. The proposed 3.18 trillion baht budget is an increase of 85 billion baht from last year, or 2.74%.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service