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Thai Cabinet OKs borrowing $68B for megaprojects

(AP) Thai Cabinet OKs borrowing $68B for megaprojects
BANGKOK
Thailand's Cabinet has approved a plan to borrow $67.6 billion to build high-speed train lines and other transportation projects over the next seven years.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said thebill approved by Cabinet ministers Tuesday will allow the government to borrow from domestic and foreign sources without going through the annual government budget process. She said this will ensure the continuity of the infrastructure expansion and give investors confidence in the projects.

"Funding the projects through the regular annual budget can be problematic because the budget is subjected to year-by-year approval. If there's a change of the government or in politics, the schemes could be discontinued," Yingluck told reporters. "By issuing of the borrowing bill, private investors can plan their investment to develop infrastructure in the provinces more confidently."

Parliament must approve the financing plan.

The projects include four high-speed rail lines that will connect Bangkok with Chiang Mai in the north, the Laotian border, the country's eastern seaboard and Malaysia. The government says the projects will boost economic growth and create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The plan's critics said it reduced transparency by bypassing the budgetary process and raised public debt to unacceptably high levels.

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