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Let's hear what is kept from the public

Dear readers, I have a confession to make: content appearing in newspapers and on websites is just part of the content that journalists gather from interviews or conferences or gossip.

We determine the lead paragraph through instinct and experience - what the public wants to know and what they should know - and supporting paragraphs are there to support the main message. But sometimes, much candid talk is kept from the public. Want to hear some?

During his speech in Bangkok, Sir Howard Davies, a professor at Sciences Po, Paris, admitted that he was a fan of Manchester City Football Club. The club received much public attention in Thailand a few years ago when former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra became the owner for a while.

Davies said that nobody in Manchester knows Thaksin, though. To Mancunians, the man was known as "Frank", thanks to his surname. Shinawatra was hard to pronounce for some, he said. As it is close to "Sinatra", everybody prefered to call him "Frank" Sinatra.

Some things about Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong are also worth listening to. To reporters, the minister is rather blunt, never shy of speaking his mind to support the government's policies - no matter the flaws that are associated with those policies or not. His aides admit that he can be "a bit moody at times". It's not because he wants to be, but because he is under pressure to carry out the government's policies. As the deputy premier in charge of economic affairs, he is also obliged to accept invitations to show up at major conferences with businesspeople. Sometimes, as in the last two weeks, he has had to attend dinners almost every night.

But, sorry chefs, if he didn't appear to enjoy the food on the table. The reason is that he prefers to fill his stomach with something else when he gets home. This shouldn't surprise anyone who has observed that he has gained weight recently. But Kittiratt is fixing this problem with a morning exercise routine. Despite the late nights, he usually gets up early for a run, to keep fit and lose some weight.

The earthquake and tsunami in Japan and floods in Thailand have taught us a painful lesson: the global industrial supply chain - which has been operating on a "just-in-time" concept - is flawed. These days, factories around the world do not keep large stocks of raw materials. Thanks to globalisation, materials can arrive at the door as needed for the manufacturing process. At Toyota plants, even the number of screws needed is based on the number of vehicles it plans to manufacture during a certain period. So, should anything unexpected happen to the supply lines, a chain reaction follows.

But to Korbsak Phutrakul, an executive vice-president with Bangkok Bank, globalisation has rendered many benefits to consumers. Just recently, he commended Ikea, the Swedish furniture company, for its innovative supply chain system. Ikea's first store in Thailand opened up a new world to him, with furniture and decorative items sourced from many places around the world, aside from Thailand. The choices are plenty enough to discourage him from setting foot in any other furniture store.

During an interview, Prasert Patramai, chairman of Team Group of Companies, revealed why his company has expanded aggressively across Asean when many other firms are still reluctant to venture out of their comfort zone. His inspiration goes back to when he was younger and part of an engineering consulting team for the World Bank, working on a project in Laos. Despite his young age, he was called "an expert". He noted that many Thai engineers - mostly having studied in a Thai-language environment - still had a timid attitude, but that this could be fixed through time and experience. One of his 700 engineers recently learnt about the "expert" prefix: "It's a superb feeling. It motivated me and added to my confidence that I was on a par with foreigners. It happened that some foreigners even asked for my opinions," he said, laughing.

His company was established to substitute for foreign firms, by gathering many engineers. It was thus called Team Group. To Prasert, venturing out of the comfort zone is not difficult. His subsidiaries need not to worry much about goals: get the first project and things will roll on. While saying that human resources are an acute problem at Team Group, he complains about Thailand's weak society that only sees short-term goals.

From all this talk, I know what you liked most is the "Frank" story. Yes, I have used my journalistic skills and experience to grab your attention. Hopefully, you'll be encouraged to read through and get the hidden messages.


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