NESDC's new 'driver' details approach to progress
Sanit Aksornkaew discusses his confidence in steering the think tank, writes Chatrudee Theparat
The prestigious state planning unit the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC) has undergone a major revamp since late last year, including being renamed from the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB).
The organisation has also been assigned a loftier task -- to be a real think tank that shapes the country's long-term vision and mission by conducting research on future trends.
The Bangkok Post sat down for an exclusive interview with Sanit Aksornkaew, chairman of the NESDC, who was appointed in 2018 to replace Amphon Kittiamphon.
What is the key mission of the NESDC?
Society has expectations of the NESDC, thus the most important mission as the chairman of the board is to drive the NESDC to become an agency the public and the government can rely on. NESDC should be a leading agency to seek solutions for society and guidance for the country's future development.
I am quite confident about steering the NESDC to become a reliable agency today, as it was in the past.
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak asked me to succeed the chairman of the board, which is a good opportunity for me to work for this country. I am not worried [about this appointment] because I was a board member for the agency since 2007.
Teamwork is the most important component driving the NESDC to achieve its mission.
NESDC is required to appoint a new set of board members, with 18 qualified experts in the field of economics, social issues, public health, technology, environment, business and community development. The cabinet has already established 14 board members.
How can the NESDC become a reliable public agency?
My plan to drive the NESDC to achieve our mission has seven steps.
1) Subcommittees need to be established to help drive the NESDC to reach the mission.
There will be seven subcommittees, one each to handle enhancing competition; social development; disparity reduction; eco-friendly development; public safety and administration development; state enterprises' investment scrutiny; and monitoring the economy.
I also plan to establish a special committee to work on specific aspects and speed up the working processes that are crucial to the country's development, such as infrastructure development, small and medium-sized enterprise promotion and economic restructuring.
This special committee will be supervised by the board members and will work together with each deputy secretary-general.
The Institute of Public Policy and Development has been established and the NESDC board has already appointed a supervising committee to manage the institute.
The institute will focus primarily on conducting research in three areas: data development, a design model for an early warning system, and future trends and country development in the long term.
2) A mission for each board member and deputy secretary-general in a corresponding line of work, such as social development, national strategy, regional development, economic and infrastructure development and management.
Each line of work will become independent, but all are working in the same direction.
3) Drive the NESDC to be based on knowledge, technology and innovation. To achieve this, the NESDC has established the Information and Communication Technology Centre to ensure a smooth flow of information and comprehensive distribution of data to assist people both in central and remote areas.
4) Coordinate with internal and external parties, including public agencies, civil society and business sectors to build a mutual understanding and tackle problems quickly.
5) Establish a strong network with both domestic and foreign partners to strengthen the workforce and promote collaboration at regional and international levels.
6) Prioritise missions based on urgency and importance, as suggested by the seven subcommittees. We are focusing on tackling drought, so we are gathering necessary data to formulate suitable remedies for people in affected areas as quickly as possible.
7) Evaluate possible changes or trends and alert the public to prepare for either opportunities or crises, along with preparing strategic plans for new challenges.
These seven steps require a serious and continuous implementation to achieve the desired results.
We also need to put in place effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to make sure we are moving in the right direction.
What is the role of NESDC in implementing the 20-year national strategy as well as routine tasks?
The 2017 constitution requires NESDC to act as the secretariat for the 20-year national strategy plan (2017-37) and the country's reform.
NESDC was appointed to help the government to drive the 20-year national strategy plan and evaluate the results. In order to reach the target, we have to coordinate with both the government and private sectors to ensure this mission's success.
The NESDC's routine tasks, such as economic and social development monitoring and approving investment plans of public agencies and state-owned enterprises, remains unchanged.
I've guided board members and NESDC executives to ensure the approval process is based on public benefit.
Policymaking should take into account all dimensions, ranging from economic, social and environmental to sustainable development.
Bringing NESDC forward is like driving a vehicle. We need a working and well-maintained car along with an efficient driver with strong knowledge of the route and environment to transport all passengers to the destination safely.
Do you have any worries about possible interference by politicians in the working processes of NESDC?
I am not worried about powerful politicians or any pressure from the administration because NESDC operates in an academic context and has transparent processes.
There is no need to worry if we do the right thing for this country. Each board member comes with expertise in their area of responsibility.
Every decision made by politicians or the administration will be scrutinised by the public. I still believe politicians have their own sense of responsibility and the public will judge them accordingly.