Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam insisted on Monday that the setting up of the new reform committees was not a redundant exercise, and that they would be nothing like their predecessor reform assemblies.
The reform plans – the eventual products of the new committees – would be legally binding for the next five years, he said, adding that this was unlike the results of the work of the National Reform Council (NRC) and the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA), which did not have legal effect.
The new reform committees are therefore more significant in that they have the authority to enforce implementation of the plans, and are not just advisory panels like the NRC and NRSA, Wissanu stressed.
The establishment of the committees was also demanded by the new Constitution and the recently enacted national reform law, the deputy PM said.
Regarding national strategy, which is the master plan for reform, he said he was sure that its long-term binding nature would not be a problem, although some people thought it might run counter to developments in a rapidly changing world.
He explained that the new national strategy law stated that the strategy could be revised in accordance with changes in government policies.
Moreover, any such revision must undergo the proper process, which would include some degree of public participation, Wissanu added.
Future governments could always set a new and better goal, the deputy premier said, while the strategy committee also gave full freedom to the government of the day to use whatever means it saw fit to achieve the goal.
“For instance, if the strategy laid out that the government help the farmers. The means [of such assistance] could be anything, [such as] a pledging or subsidy scheme. They could come up with that themselves,” he insisted.
Asked whether the strategy committee would come to counterbalance any government wishing to pursue populist policies, Wissanu said that was not true and was not something that the current government had ever intended.
Populist policies would be deterred by other mechanisms, such as the new fiscal discipline law and the political party law, which would require governments to specify the source of funding before campaigning for any populist policies, he said.
The deputy PM also said that the heads of the reform committees would convene for the first time at the end of this month to set general rules and regulations, before starting working separately in their respective fields.
As none of the 11 committees, which can each have up to 14 members, has yet been filled, Wissanu said the current membership of each panel could recruit new members as they saw fit to fill the vacancies.
There are some people currently working in independent agencies that they wish to call up, but they have to wait until the individuals are out of office because commissioners from independent agencies are disqualified from taking up posts on the reform panels, he added.
Asked whether the vacant positions were being reserved for top-brass officers due to retire this October, the deputy prime minister said that was untrue.
Such military officers could take up office now if the authorities had such a plan for them to do so, he said, adding that members of the top brass were already serving as ex-officio members of the national strategy committee.