Call for end to policy corruption
A former investment banker has urged the military-backed government to confront policy corruption, which he says has damaged the country's competitive edge.
The banker, who requested anonymity, said last week that rampant policy corruption in the telecommunications arena had reduced national competitiveness.
He claimed state telecom organisations had been burdened with policy corruption and used as vehicles to favour politically associated private telecom businesses - when they should have been playing key roles promoting telecom-service accessibility for all.
The interim government should position TOT Plc and CAT Telecom Plc as economic drivers, he said, and create a balance in competition between state and private operators to ensure maximum benefit to consumers.
TOT and CAT must also further Internet-based education.
However, these goals are out of reach if the government does not improve the efficiency of both agencies, said the banker, adding that the stock exchange listing for the two has been postponed because of lack of competitiveness.
He alleged the agencies' bureaucratic masters and boards of directors had "negligently" allowed them to fall behind private telecom concessionaires in the competitiveness stakes.
The Finance Ministry owns 100 per cent of both TOT and CAT, whilst the Information and Communications Technology Ministry administers them.
One example of their blunt competitive edge is their comparatively poor profit performance.
While TOT and CAT posted respective profits of Bt6.69 billion and Bt4.09 billion last year, leading cellular operator Advanced Info Service Plc (AIS) was well ahead with Bt18.9 billion in the black. TOT owns the government concession awarded to AIS - the company founded by the family of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Its 49.6-per-cent stake in AIS parent Shin Corp Plc was sold to Singapore state-investment arm Temasek Holdings in January.
New ICT Minister Sitthichai Pookaiyaudom has already asked the TOT and CAT boards to merge to improve competitiveness. He said the combined board must lead the companies in the same direction as well as slash redundant investment.
This represents a policy change from the previous government.