BOT chief explains why he would turn down PM's job

national April 04, 2014 00:00

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Bank of Thailand Governor Dr Prasarn Trairatvorakul, whose name was included in the list of potential neutral prime ministers, tells Nation Multimedia Group's chairman Suthichai Yoon about the central bank's role in the ongoing political conflict and of

Q : There are now proposals to reform not only the country’s politics, but also its economic and government officialdom. The government wants to hold an election before reforms are put in place, while the opposition wants it the other way around. What are your views on this? Which should come first so it does not have an adverse effect on the economy?
A : There are two options, either elections or reforms, though the two words really mean “procedure” and “mechanism”. Actually, I have been thinking about the best solution for the country over the past few months. One of my favourite options is an agreement among stakeholders first, especially the two main political parties, though other parties should also be included. 
If we opt for the election-before-reform formula, we can hold an election but will first have to reach an agreement on the exact model of the government and how reforms will be put in place. After that, another election can be held and the winner will need to be accepted by all. Under the new prototype, this winner will also have to listen to minority parties. 
All parties need to participate in the election so the resulting government is powerful. Doing it this way will be in line with the Constitution and likely be accepted by the public. Eventually, the end result will depend very much on the substance of the reform. 
As for the reform-before-election formula, we will need to focus on the “substance” of the reforms and who will be in charge of putting them in place. However, the protesters are not very clear about the reforms they want and who will manage them. With so many things on the line, I think prioritising is very important. 
Q : Is there any particular issue the BOT is focusing on?
A : We are focusing on limiting populist policies so they do not create any risks for the country. We are also doing a study on how to stop the use of specific financial institutions like the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives and the Government Savings Bank in political mechanisms. Our other task is to root out corruption. 
Q : What are your views on a neutral prime minister?
A : It’s really difficult to analyse this because it is likely a trade-off, as there will be winners and losers depending on the situation. I prefer all sides to win; that’s why the stakeholders should have an agreement prior to an election.
Q : What happens if the two parties come to a compromise?
A : It would be interesting if this happens. If not, I’m afraid the unrest might scare away potential investors. If the two sides compromise on clear reforms, even if it is without a long-term timeframe, it would still be better than a military coup, which is not accepted by the world. 
Q : You were included in the list of potential neutral prime ministers. What would you do if asked?
A : With this ongoing crisis, it does not only depend on whether one is “up to it”, but also on their trustworthiness and past performance. 
When I’m offered a job, I always ask if I’m up to it. We need to take responsibility if we accept the job.
Q : Does this mean you will not totally refuse this post?
A : I think I will pretty much refuse it. First, I’m not quite “up to it”. This is very different from when I was approached to take the BOT governor’s post. 
A neutral premier’s job requires resolving problems on several different dimensions. 
The interview will be televised on Nation TV’s “Timeline Suthichai Yoon” show at 7pm on Sunday. 

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