BANGKOK - Thailand's 3.35 trillion baht ($98.38 billion) budget for the 2024 fiscal year starting in October could be delayed by four or five months, the Budget Bureau said on Thursday, as the Southeast Asian country heads to an election set for May.

The budget is needed to help support the economy, which grew just 2.6% last year and is being driven by the tourism sector due to declining exports as global demand slows.

The budget process has been put on hold for the next government to decide on the plan, which could be carried on or revised, Chalermphol Pensoot, head of the Budget Bureau, told Reuters.

"If a new government is formed in July, I expect the 2024 budget to be ready in January or February, at the earliest," he said.

Thailand's May 14 poll will be a battle between a pro-military conservative grouping, including the incumbent Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, against the largest opposition Pheu Thai party, headed by the billionaire Shinawatra family.

This month, Prayuth's cabinet approved the 2024 budget that projects a 5.18% rise in spending to 3.35 trillion baht, including 717 billion baht in investment. It projects a 14.68% drop in a budget deficit to 593 billon baht, or 3% of gross domestic product (GDP).

The budget to be passed needs to go through the lower house's three readings then get senate approval and the king's endorsement.

Chalermphol said the delayed budget should not have a big impact on the economy as it would only slow new investment projects, not current expenditure.

"The fiscal budget is only 10% of GDP, so its impact on the economy should be small," he added. ($1 = 34.05 baht)

(Writing by Orathai Sriring; Editing by Martin Petty)