Honeymoon period over, Thai PM tells new Cabinet

Honeymoon period over, Thai PM tells new Cabinet
Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha.
PHOTO: The Nation/ANN

He has instructed the Council of Economic Ministers led by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak first to help the grass-roots population, accelerate government spending on investment, and then increase the country's competitiveness by providing more incentives to attract foreign investors.

Government Spokesman Maj-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said: "The prime minister said thank you for the sacrifices of the previous Cabinet team that laid down the foundations, but there is still some unfinished business that has to be continued, and he expects the new Cabinet to work together to move the country forward as there is no more honeymoon period. It is time to get down to the details."

Prayut told the new Cabinet to keep in mind what can be done while his military-led regime remains in place at least into next year and to create confidence regarding ongoing government projects by providing a clear periodical progress reports, Sansern said.

Speaking to the press after the Cabinet meeting, Prayut said: "There has to be tangibility regarding investments that have impacts on the economy and other businesses. Road, railway and [mass-transit] projects have to be clear, and all have been planned already in terms of principles and international relations that are matched with what Deputy Prime Minister Somkid has thought of.

"I have been informed that many countries are willing to work with this government.

"We are currently working on the new Public Private Partnerships Bill, and if anything can be accelerated it will be, but everything has to be under regulations no matter if it is high-speed trains, double-track railways or motorways, which all have to begin this year. What can be built will be built, but it depends on where the money comes from."

Sansern said the prime minister had given importance to grass-roots people who had been badly hit by the economic slowdown by ordering the economic team to come up with ways to increase their purchasing power. He has also stressed the importance of accelerating the disbursement of government investment budgets in the 2015 and 2016 fiscal years.

Provide more business matching

Finding ways to provide more business matching, investment and trade incentives with other countries in the region is also one of the priorities that were given to the new Council of Economic Ministers, Sansern said.

Meanwhile, the prime minister has assigned duties to six of his deputies. Two are in charge of economic affairs, including Somkid, who is now overseeing the work of the Ministries of Finance, Foreign Affairs, Agriculture and Cooperatives, Transport, Commerce, Science and Technology, and Industry. The other is Air Chief Marshal Prajin Juntong, who is now overseeing the Ministries of Information and Communication Technology, Energy, and Education, as well as the National Research Council of Thailand.

Budget Bureau director Somsak Chotrattanasiri said Somkid's stimulus package to boost the grass-roots economy would go before the Cabinet next week, as the bureau had already discussed it with the Finance Ministry regarding the use of the central budget, of which there is between Bt50 billion to Bt70 billion left, to fund the measures.

The central budget is part of every fiscal budget and it is directly at the disposal of the prime minister to be used during times of economic difficulty and natural disasters. The exact amount of the budget is known only to the Budget Bureau and the prime minister himself.

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