Ambitious plans, but new Thai economic czar unfazed

Ambitious plans, but new Thai economic czar unfazed
Mr Pridiyathorn Devakula is confident of meeting the Thai government's fiscal and economic targets in its one-year timeframe.

Post-Coup Thailand has ambitious fiscal and economic policies in the pipeline, all of which need to be completed in one year.

The government wants to cut energy subsidies, levy property and inheritance taxes, integrate the digital economy and push Thai ventures abroad.

It is also aiming to raise the proportion of the national budget spent on investment, says Mr Pridiyathorn Devakula, the deputy prime minister overseeing economic policy.

Few in the military-dominated Cabinet sound as confident as he.

"I am 100 per cent confident, more confident than the other people in the government," he told The Straits Times in an interview while on a trip to Singapore.

"There is nothing difficult, because what we are doing is for the interests of the nation. You simply have to explain to the people."

Last night, he told the participants at the Forbes Global CEO Conference at the Shangri-La Hotel that he was doing away with "four or five categories of tax" to entice companies to base themselves in Thailand.

"We have to match Singapore," he said.

While coup-maker and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has hinted that it may take longer than expected for elections to take place, Mr Pridiyathorn told the conference that the government should "stick to the existing timetable and do everything as fast as possible".

"You cannot hold the election too long (from now) anyway. Right now, you still remember those six long months (of protests).

But who knows, three, four months from now, people may start to be fed up with some slow performance of this government."

The current government, he told The Straits Times, had one year to "lay a good foundation so that anyone, any government coming in will have no choice but to expand it, to follow it". This would involve convincing the public about the soundness of its policies.

Mr Pridiyathorn has to turn around an economy battered by seven months of political turbulence prior to the coup in May, as analysts worry that rising costs mean that "Teflon Thailand" is no longer so impervious to such political pressures.

The Asian Development Bank has forecast growth of just 1.5 per cent this year and 4.5 per cent next year.

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