Thai­land reshuf­fles cab­i­net to fo­cus on econ­omy

The Pak Banker - - BUSINESS -

Thai Prime Min­is­ter Prayuth Chan-ocha has reshuf­fled his cab­i­net, ap­point­ing a new fi­nance min­is­ter and a new deputy premier to over­see the econ­omy as the mil­i­tary gov­ern­ment seeks to spur growth.

South­east Asia's sec­ond-largest econ­omy has con­sis­tently missed gov­ern­ment tar­gets since Prayuth, then army chief, led a coup in May 2014 to end months of protests, with ex­ports and do­mes­tic de­mand stub­bornly slug­gish.

A weak econ­omy could un­der­mine sup­port for the junta as frus­tra- tion with re­stric­tions on po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity sim­mers, par­tic­u­larly among younger vot­ers and sup­port­ers of for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Yingluck Shi­nawa­tra, whose gov­ern­ment was ousted last year. Apisak Tan­tivo­ra­wong, for­mer pres­i­dent of state-owned Krung Thai Bank, has be­come fi­nance min­is­ter, re­plac­ing Som­mai Phasee, ac­cord­ing to a procla­ma­tion on Thurs­day. Apisak, 61, has a master's de­gree in busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion from the Univer­sity of Ten­nessee in the United States.

A gov­ern­ment ad­viser, Somkid Ja­tus­rip­i­tak, who is also a for­mer fi­nance min­is­ter, has been ap­pointed deputy prime min­is­ter in charge of re­viv­ing eco­nomic growth. Somkid, 62, a for­mer mar­ket­ing ex­ec­u­tive, was a deputy prime min­is­ter and com­merce min­is­ter in a gov­ern­ment of de­posed Prime Min­is­ter Thaksin Shi­nawa­tra, Yingluck's brother, and was a key pro­po­nent of pop­ulist, bigspend­ing poli­cies known as "Thaksi­nomics".

Somkid has a doc­tor­ate in mar­ket­ing from Kel­logg Grad­u­ate School of Man­age­ment at North­west­ern Univer­sity. "In­vestors will welcome the new ap­point­ments. Somkid has the ex­pe­ri­ence in re­viv­ing an ail­ing econ­omy," said Vikas Kawa­tra, sen- ior an­a­lyst of SCB Se­cu­ri­ties. Barn­abas Gan, economist with OCBC Bank in Sin­ga­pore, said the new team might not bring quick change. "With the sig­nif­i­cant lag in growth al­ready seen in the first half, it is noth­ing short of a mir­a­cle per­haps for Thai­land to see a size­able pickup in eco­nomic mo­men­tum." Among the ad­just­ments, Api­radi Tantra­porn, pre­vi­ously deputy com­merce min­is­ter, has been ap­pointed min­is­ter, re­plac­ing Gen­eral Chatchai Sarikulya, who be­comes agri­cul­ture min­is­ter.

Arkhom Termpit­taya­paisith, pre­vi­ously deputy trans­port min­is­ter, has be­come min­is­ter, re­plac­ing Air Chief Mar­shal Pra­jin Jun­tong, who be­comes deputy prime min­is­ter. Don Pra­mud­winai, pre­vi­ously deputy for­eign min­is­ter, has be­come min­is­ter and a for­mer Board of In­vest­ment sec­re­tary gen­eral, Atchaka Si­bun­ruang, be­comes in­dus­try min­is­ter. The junta says speedy gov­ern­ment spend­ing will drive growth but dis­burse­ment of funds has been slow and big in­fra­struc­ture projects have stalled.

State plan­ners on Mon­day cut the 2015 eco­nomic growth forecast to 2.7-3.2 per cent from 3.0-4.0 per cent. Many econ­o­mists be­lieve that is too op­ti­mistic. Growth last year was 0.9 per cent.

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