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Thai government survives key test with $106 bln budget vote

* Budget deficit projected at 623 bln baht in FY 2021, up 32.8%

* Spending estimated at 3.3 trln baht, up 3.1%

* Budget plan based on expected 2021 GDP growth of 4.0-5.0%

BANGKOK, July 3 (Reuters) – Thailand’s coalition government survived a key challenge on Friday when parliament passed the first reading of a $106 billion draft budget bill for the 2021 fiscal year, aimed at reviving an economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

A defeat would have forced former junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha’s 20-party government to either resign or dissolve parliament.

After a three-day debate, the bill’s passed with 273 votes in favour, 200 against and three abstentions.

The bill still has to pass second and third readings in early September. It will also need senate and royal approval.

The proposed budget projects a 3.1% rise in spending to 3.3 trillion baht ($106.21 billion) for the fiscal year starting on Oct. 1. It projects a deficit of 623 billion baht, up 32.8% from the 2020 fiscal year.

The budget planners have assumed Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy will shrink 5.0%-6.0% this year before growing 4.0-5.0% in 2021. The central bank has forecast a record economic contraction of 8.1% this year.

($1 = 31.07 baht) (Reporting by Orathai Sriring and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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