FTI: It's time for action

FTI: It's time for action

Economic team urged to speed up work

Responding to complaints by business leaders that the the government's team has been
Responding to complaints by business leaders that the the government's team has been "too slow" in reacting to the economic slowdown, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha agreed, but still refused to address reports he is about to reshuffle that team. (Photo by Thanarak Khunton)

Business leaders have criticised the government's economic team as being too slow in tackling the economic slowdown.

The team must improve its working speed to cope with the rapidly changing situation or else the second half will be worse than the first half, they say.

"The economic ministers are way too slow in addressing the slowdown in the economy," said Supant Mongkolsuthree, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI).

The business sector believes economic policies have been tackling the wrong points, he said, urging the government to shift its focus from macroeconomic issues to microeconomics.  

"There are weak links in the overall economy that the government should look at thoroughly part by part rather than considering blanket measures that take too long and too much effort," said Mr Supant.  

The most urgent task is to revive farm product prices. Their fall has directly eroded consumers' purchasing power but the government has not implemented substantial measures to help, he said. 

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have been hardest hit and require urgent government support.

"We asked the government to implement soft loans and extend a ceiling for SME loan guarantees, but it took them so long. Many SMEs severely need liquidity to extend their business lives," said Mr Supant. 

The struggling global economy and the drought will further hurt SMEs.

Asked whether the FTI would support the idea of reshuffling economic ministers, Mr Supant said: "It is up to the prime minister to make the call."

He said the economy had hardly improved even though the private sector had waited almost one year for the economic team to tackle issues.

The situation is likely to get worse given the euro-zone crisis, China's subdued growth and the slow recovery of the US, he said.

"Without an effective and strong remedy, the domestic market in the latter half will be worse than in the first six months," said Mr Supant.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday declined to answer questions about a possible reshuffle of his economic team. "Propose me the [reshuffle] plan and I will make a decision myself," he said.

The government's economic team is led by Deputy Prime Minister MR Pridiyathorn Devakula, Finance Minister Sommai Phasee, Energy Minister Narongchai Akrasanee, Industry Ministry Chakramon Phasukvanich and Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Petipong Pungbun Na Ayudhya.

However, Gen Prayut is concerned about the slow pace of economic development including delays to budget disbursement, liquidity injections and state infrastructure projects.

"I am worried about these slow processes. That's why we need another team to specially monitor development pace. This team will also monitor the working processes to ensure transparency," he said.

A cabinet source said Gen Prayut recently called an urgent meeting of high-ranking officials to ask them to tackle slow budget disbursement and accelerate the implementation of infrastructure projects. 

He wants officials to kick off these projects from 2015-17 to spur consumption.

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