Tarisa becomes BOT's first female chief
The colonial-style Bangkhunprom Palace, which houses the Bank of Thailand's headquarters, is 100 years old this year and, for the first time, a woman has been appointed governor of the country's central bank.
As expected, Tarisa Watanagase was named the 21st governor of the Bank of Thailand yesterday, following the departure of MR Pridiyathorn Devakula to become deputy prime minister and finance minister in the interim government.
Tarisa, formerly a deputy governor, received the Cabinet's approval to become the first female head of the bank in its 64-year history.
Meanwhile, Siam Commercial Bank's board of directors yesterday appointed Kannikar Chalitaport to replace Khunying Jada Wattanasiritham, whose term as the bank's president and chief executive will expire in January.
Kannikar, whose current position is senior executive vice president, supervises SCB's marketing and retail finance business.
Tarisa, 57, is a civil servant who has climbed to the top job at the central bank, which oversees the country's monetary disciplines and economic stability. She has been working as an economist for the central bank since 1975 and has held the post of deputy governor since 1992.
Tarisa also spends most of her leisure time at the bank, as a member of its art and yoga clubs.
Her appointment was positively received by businesspeople because of her reputation as an experienced economist who never compromises the principles of the central bank despite political pressure.
Moreover, Tarisa received strong support from Pridiyathorn, who considered her as his right-hand assistant when he was the governor. Pridiyathorn entrusted her with the top job because he believes she will upgrade the Bank of Thailand's operations to the international level.
Upon learning of the Cabinet's approval yesterday, Tarisa said to reporters who were waiting to congratulate her: "Thank you and please kindly put me into your care." She also thanked other central bank officials for their support.
Tarisa's softly spoken and gentle demeanour belies the fact that she is a tough nut to crack. While some of her male colleagues might succumb to political intervention, Tarisa will fight for what she believes in.
On one recent occasion, she stood up strongly against former finance minister Thanong Bidaya's plan to transfer supervision of financial institutions from the central bank to the Finance Ministry. Despite criticisms that she was trying to hold on to power, Tarisa blocked the move because she said she wanted to ensure the transparency of inspections of financial institutions.
Her determination to fight for what she believes is right has not gone unnoticed. A central bank source said when Pridiyathorn had to make any major decisions on BOT operations, he always wanted to hear Tarisa's opinion first. "Khun Pridiyathorn would not say 'yes' without a second thought until hearing Tarisa's agreement because he had trust in her circumspection," the source said.
Tarisa is known as a courageous, reasonable and easy-going woman who makes decisions cautiously, based on data and statistics. She graduated with a doctoral degree in economics from Washington University before beginning her central bank career. She has experience in every key department, including monetary policy, money market, supervision and payment systems. She served as an economist at the IMF from 1988 to 1990.