Executives upbeat on new line-up
Admiral as transport minister criticised
While the interim economic ministers headed by MR Pridiya-thorn Devakula and Kosit Panpiemras satisfy business leaders overall, some critics have pointed out there is a weak link in the new Cabinet.
Dhurakij Pundit University economist Pairoj Vongvipanond said it was unfortunate the image of the team of economic ministers had been damaged by the appointment of Admiral Theera Haocharoen as interim transport minister. He said Theera's military background contradcited the the coup leader's pledge that soldiers would not cling to power.
He said the appointment apparently indicated that old-style politics that mandates a Cabinet quota system remained unchanged. The problem of transparency in running the Transport Ministry will linger on as in the past. There are vast interests and many investment projects under the responsibility of this ministry.
"It would be better if Admiral Theera showed his spirit by not accepting Surayud's invitation for the transport minister's portfolio. There are many knowledgeable civilians who are qualified," said Pairoj.
Thailand Development Re-search Institute (TDRI) economist Somchai Jitsuchon said foreign observers might be disappointed by the appointment but suggested time would tell whether the interim transport minister was serving the public interest or interest groups close to the coup leaders.
So far, there has been no evidence the coup leaders want to cling to political power, he said, adding that this was the difference between this coup and the previous one led by General Suchinda Kraprayoon.
"If the coup leaders want to seek personal gain, they could do so without having a close aide sitting in the Cabinet," said Somchai.
He was optimistic interim Finance Minister MR Pridiyathorn Devakula and interim Transport Deputy Minister Sansern Wongcha-um would support the management of the Transport Ministry.
Phatra Securities economist Thanomsri Fongarunrung argued that Theera was not the weakest point of the new Cabinet line-up.
"I think Admiral Theera would take charge of anti-corruption in the ministry, while Sansern would take responsibility for pushing policy implementation, because he was the National Economic and Social Development Board secretary-general who was in charge of mega-infrastructure projects," she said.
She added that the new interim ministers were acceptable in the view of foreign investors, but those investors would wait for implementation of the ministers' policies.
TDRI research director Somkiat Tangkitvanich expressed his approval of the new Cabinet. He noted there were few generals in the Cabinet and added that the new interim transport minister might also be keen on the country's transportation issues.
Maris Tarab, managing director of ING Mutual Funds Management (Thailand) and president of the Association of Investment Management Companies, said the new Cabinet did not surprise the business community, because the members were capable persons and acceptable among market experts.
That may explain why stock investors were indifferent to the Cabinet announcement. The Stock Exchange of Thailand Index started yesterday with a mild rise before moving downwards to end trading at 692.26, or down 0.34 per cent. Turnover was Bt8.68 billion.
Kiatnakin Securities assistant vice president Wiriya Lappromrattana said the new Cabinet line-up for economic affairs was in line with expectations and that the stock market had already factored this in.
"Investors have paid attention to the finance minister, energy minister, foreign minister and commerce minister, and their names satisfied them. The stock market in the short term will move narrowly, due to the absence of new positive factors," he said.
He said one good factor could be the disbursement of the fiscal-2007 budget and that investors would change their strategy after the new economic policies were announced.
Meanwhile, Thai Bankers' Association chair Jada Wattanasiritham said yesterday the new Cabinet contained all qualified persons, with knowledge, capability and trustworthiness, which she considered the most important qualifications.
The interim government, she said, was in a critical period of building the unity and security of the nation.
Businessmen are currently waiting for the new economic policies that would further drive the economy.
"Once the new government is clear enough, I think investors would not hesitate to invest," Jada said. "Their confidence will be restored. Establishing a good understanding with our foreign traders and investors is important, because we're still an open economy."
Thai Bankers' Association secretary-general Twatchai Yongkittikul said the new Cabinet was capable and would not need much time to learn their jobs. Thus, they could restore the confidence of both local and foreign investors.
Bangkok Bank president Chartsiri Sophonpanich said the new Cabinet and the new government's economic team would build investor confidence, because they were excellent in terms of both knowledge and capability. They will strengthen the country's economic foundations, as well.
Thai Hotels Association (THA) vice president Prakit Chinamourpong said the new Cabinet and new interim tourism minister were experts in economic and development policies. Thus, the THA believes the group will bring about a better general political situation and that business will improve soon.
Association of Thai Travel Agents president Apichart Sankary predicted interim Tourism and Sport Minister Suwit Yodmani would work well with the private sector, because he was an academic who used to work in the tourism industry.
However, Apichart will deliver a letter to the new interim minister containing working suggestions compiled by travel operators, particularly in regard to helping the private sector rebuild the tourism industry and focusing more attention on tourism policies, including the selection of a new governor for the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
"We need the right person now to improve tourism," said Apichart.
He added that the new interim minister should participate in all events and marketing activities abroad, in order to build up tourist confidence in the wake of last month's coup.