Thai cabinet rejects bus leasing project

17:55, August 10, 2010      

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Thai cabinet Tuesday rejected the project to lease 4,000 natural-gas-powered buses for Bangkok commuters on the ground of a suspiciously high leasing cost.

The cabinet assigned a committee, led by Deputy Prime Minister Trairong Suwankhiri, to review the project before it is re- submitted for approval.

The scheme, which plans to spend 64 billion baht (2.0 billion U. S.dollars) to overhaul the obsolete mass transit system in Bangkok, was proposed in June, 2009 by the Transportation Minister Sophon Saram from Bhum Jai Thai party and was approved in principle by the cabinet last September.

Before Tuesday's cabinet meeting, Sophon said that regardless of the cabinet decision, it will have an impact on the Democrat- led coalition, in which the Bhum Jai Thai is a major player.

Prior to the cabinet decision, some social groups had voiced their concern over the project, which aroused suspicion of potential corruption and foul play. The Senate's anti-corruption committee also issued a statement opposing the scheme on Monday.

In its project evaluation report, the National Economic and Social Development Board expressed disapproval of the project for two reasons-- unrealistically high leasing cost and uncertainty that the bus lease would help salvage the capital's bus services which were running at the loss.

Bangkok Metropolitan Transit Authority (BMTA) was heavily indebted since its inception in 1975. Firstly initiated during the Thaksin Shinawatra's administration and then scaled down for several times,the bus-leasing project aims to ease the financial burden of the BMTA.

Source: Xinhua


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