All eyes on Somkid as new economic ministers

PHOTO: The Nation/ANN

Thailand's newly appointed economic czar, Somkid Jatusripitak, is expected to restore consumer and business confidence by bringing to the job his expertise in international marketing and grass-roots economy management, as his team replaces Deputy Prime Minister MR Pridiyathorn Devakula and the other economic ministers.

Among the top priorities of the new team would be jump-starting the economy with an injection of funds and launching new measures and campaigns to boost the country's international image, especially in the wake of Monday's deadly blast at Bangkok's Erawan Shrine, which jolted the tourism industry.

Many businesspeople have high regard for the Somkid team, which includes Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong (a former Krungthai Bank CEO); Information and Communications Technology Minister Uttama Savanayana; and Deputy Commerce Minister Suvit Maesincee.

In addition, Somkid as the deputy premier in charge of economic affairs will work with new Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn; new Industry Minister Atchaka Sibunruang; new Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith; and new Deputy Transport Minister Omsin Chivapreuk, who is chairman of the State Railway of Thailand.

Supporters said the new team is expected to take more proactive measures and oversee more efficient implementation of the existing policies.

Apisak is regarded as one of Somkid's close colleagues, as they used to work together at IFCT before the financial crisis of 1997.

Suvit, a member of the National Reform Council and also one of Somkid's trainees, with experience in many private companies was approached to help him on economic policy and competitiveness during ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra's administration.

At Somkid's suggestion, Suvit was also a trainee of world-renowned marketing professor Philip Kotler.

After the 2006 coup, Suvit became an academic and was also a director of Sasin Institute for Global Affairs.

The energy portfolio has been given to General Anantaporn Kanjanarat. He is known to be a close friend of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and is often called "NGO" minister, which should delight businesses involved in renewable energy.

"Income distribution is now of the most importance given that all key engines driving the economy have already been turned off," said a source in the financial market, adding that tourism income - considered the last engine - was switched off after the Monday's Bangkok blast.

First of all, the government should spur the circulation of money by urging all banks to extend loans at affordable rates, especially home loans, to those who are self-employed or business owners. This would help shore up the fall in property prices, ensuring that the valuation of collateral at the banks would not reduce.

Paiboon Ponsuwanna, adviser to the Thai National Shippers Council, said he was satisfied with new Cabinet and the economic team, as some have been retained and some promoted, which should help them continue their work and policies to drive growth.

"The new Cabinet seems to |bring new hope, especially the |economic team, not only Somkid, but also the other ministers. We hope the government would focus |more on solving economic problems, from focusing mainly on reconciliation," said Paiboon.

Sermkhun Kunawong, chairman of Event Management Association, suggested that in a bid to help develop the country's image, the event business should be supported by the government, including bringing big events to the country to extend the length of stay of foreign tourists and boost domestic travel.

Chatchai Payuhanaveechai, president and chief executive officer of Government Housing Bank, said the new Cabinet should quickly restore confidence of the tourism sector .

Kitti PatpongPibul, president of the Housing Finance Association, suggested that the new Cabinet should launch stimulus schemes to encourage homebuyers, such as a first home for low-income people, he suggested.

Surin Pitsuwan, former secretary-general at the ASEAN Secretariat, said the Cabinet reshuffle should be a great start to find new solutions for many economic issues, which mainly concern exports and domestic consumption.

Lars-Ake Norling, chief executive officer of Total Access Communication (DTAC), said that in the coming months, the most critical item on the agenda of the new ICT minister would be to ensure the spectrum licence auction took place as scheduled.