BANGKOK (AP) -- Thailand's Senate on Wednesday approved a bill that will allow the government to borrow $69.5 billion to build high-speed train lines and other transport infrastructure over the next seven years.
The Senate voted 63-13 in favor of the financing plan which allows the Finance Ministry to borrow the funds in Thailand and overseas worth 2.2 trillion baht, without going through the annual government budget process.
The projects will include four high-speed rail lines that will connect Bangkok with Chiang Mai in the north, the Laotian border, Thailand's industrialized eastern seaboard and Malaysia.
Other projects include building more ports, expanding the mass transit network in the capital and surrounding provinces and building dual-track rail lines that the government has said could triple the number of rail services per day from the current 90. It is part of a push to switch hauling of goods from roads to rail to lower fuel consumption, logistics costs and delivery times.
The government has said the projects, to be completed by 2020, will boost Thailand's economic growth, create jobs and improve investor confidence.
Critics say the bill would raise public debt to unacceptably high levels and will reduce transparency by bypassing the annual budget process.