The government is accelerating its water-resources management and flood-prevention projects worth a combined Bt350 billion to ensure that the country is ready to cope with this year’s rainy season, according to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
“We’re working on details of the plans at the provincial level to ensure consistency and interconnectedness,” she said.
“We’re also making sure that public money is used properly and that the floodways will actually work when the water is there. This means we need accurate calculations and forecasts on the amount of water in the major dams, the amount of rainfall and the amount of water that will be left in low-lying areas,” she said.
“This year’s plan will be comprehensive from the upstream areas down to Bangkok, with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration [BMA] and the armed forces helping the central government to implement flood-prevention plans,” Yingluck said during her weekly national address.
The premier will visit several upstream, mid-stream and downstream provinces from February 13-17 to review progress in related water-management and flood-prevention plans.
Yingluck said the government’s policy was to prevent flooding in high-value economic areas and industrial estates.
During the floods late last year, more than 1,000 factories in seven industrial estates in Ayutthaya and Pathum Thani provinces were submerged, causing massive damage to the country’s supply chains for the automotive, electronic and other industries.
The overall damage was estimated to be Bt1.4 trillion.
During the February 13-17 trip, the premier will also ensure dikes and dams damaged by last year’s floods are fixed and ready for the upcoming rainy season.
“Next, we will find out if areas designated as floodways are really practical, as some places may be occupied by local people. In such cases, we need to find new routes for the flood water to flow downstream, while minimising the impacts,” the prime minister said.
“This year is very crucial and we need co-operation from all parties concerned. We’re worried foreign investors will leave Thailand for other countries. If they relocate their factories outside Thailand, it will be very difficult to get them back,” she said.
Of the overall Bt350-billion budget, an initial Bt12 billion has been allocated to urgent and short-term projects.
Yingluck said Deputy Prime Minister Yongyuth Wichaidit will work with the BMA on projects for Bangkok, while the armed forces will be responsible for dredging about 300 canals so flood water can flow more efficiently during the rainy season.
Earlier, the Yingluck government was criticised for failing to speed up its water-management and flood-prevention plans ahead of this year’s rainy season.
The lack of details on its mega-infrastructure projects worth a combined Bt350 billion for implementation over the next one to two years was also cited as a sign of incompetence.
On the emergency decree to transfer the Bt1.14 trillion public debt from the 1997 financial crisis to the Bank of Thailand, Yingluck said the law was necessary because the government had to spend a lot of money managing water resources and preventing floods.
The Opposition and a group of senators have petitioned the Constitution Court to rule on whether the decree meets the legal criteria for an emergency, and whether it is constitutional.
Opponents say the debt transfer should be handled by a bill for Parliament to consider and enact into law, not an emergency decree, since it has nothing directly to do with last year’s floods.
Yingluck said the government had two choices: passing the huge debt to the central bank or raising taxes.