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Business calls for action stations

While the private sector is pleased to see a new government established, questions remain regarding the stability of the administration

Mr Srettha, Thailand's new prime minister, met with members of the media at Pheu Thai headquarters in Bangkok on Wednesday. AFP
Mr Srettha, Thailand's new prime minister, met with members of the media at Pheu Thai headquarters in Bangkok on Wednesday. AFP

Led by newly appointed Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin from the Pheu Thai Party, the government has set a record for the longest time taken to form a cabinet following an election, breaking the previous record of 108 days set by the Prayut Chan-o-cha administration in 2019, as the new government awaits official endorsement.

The initial coalition formed after the poll was made up of eight parties, with the two most dominant -- Move Forward and Pheu Thai -- sharing the majority of seats.

The new 11-party governing coalition excludes Move Forward, with at least six parties set to take some of the 35 ministerial positions in Mr Srettha's cabinet.

Having a functioning government might allay some concerns over the sluggish economy as Pheu Thai pledged to address its 10,000-baht digital wallet pledge at the first cabinet meeting.

However, questions regarding stability remain given the diverse policies of each coalition party, as well as intentions to amend the constitution or even write a new one that could lead to disagreement.

Political protests could erupt at any moment, particularly if the government's honeymoon period comes to an end and it has failed to deliver on the promises made during the campaign.

Even though the business sector is relieved a new administration was formed, the real challenge of governing will be much tougher than cobbling together coalition members the past few months.


Academics are calling for the new administration to focus on issuing stimulus measures for the remaining five months of this year to sustain economic growth at a minimum of 3%.

Aat Pisanwanich, director of the Center for International Trade Studies at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC), said the Srettha administration needs to hold talks with the coalition parties, stressing the importance of stimulus this year using state budget, while restricting the use of budget for other uses among other ministries.

"For economic growth this year to reach 3%, the government needs to inject as much money into the economy as possible," said Mr Aat.

A timely injection of the fiscal 2024 budget into the economy is the only viable option to stimulate the economy for the remainder of this year as other factors are uncontrollable, such as the global economic slowdown, China's slumping growth, and the El Niño weather phenomenon that is affecting Thai exports and the agricultural sector, he said.

Before determining a package to stimulate private consumption and domestic investment, the government must first develop a roadmap to drive the economy and build confidence among investors, said Mr Aat.

He said the contraction of Thai exports is mainly attributed to dependency on a few key markets such as the US, China and Japan, and this issue still persists.

The new government should find other export markets offering better prospects for Thai products such as India, Africa and the Middle East to diversify risk, said Mr Aat.

Thai exports are expected to contract by 2% this year, according to the latest forecast by the UTCC.

Thai officials working abroad are not actively promoting Thai products at present because they use a rotation system based on the organisation's tenure, he said.

Mr Aat suggested the government provide monetary rewards to officials who can reach sales targets for Thai products overseas, similar to the approach used by the private sector to motivate executives.

The parliament on Tuesday during a vote, with Pheu Thai Party leader Cholnan Srikaew nominating Srettha Thavisin for prime minister. Chanat Katanyu


While conceding the Srettha administration may face political instability during its term, the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) believes it can make a significant contribution to Thai economic development.

Despite Pheu Thai's controversial decision to form an alliance with parties from a previously rival political camp, it could provide a good opportunity to work with politicians from the United Thai Nation (UTN) Party and the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) to carry out some key economic policies initiated during the administration of Prayut Chan-o-cha, said Kriengkrai Thiennukul, chairman of the FTI.

"This can support Pheu Thai, which is known for its expertise in implementing economic stimulus policies," he said.

Mr Kriengkrai said the FTI is always ready to work with a new government, regardless of who leads the administration.

"We hope the Pheu Thai-led government will help Thailand get through economic uncertainties, including the global economic slowdown," he said.

The experience of politicians from the UTN and PPRP could help Pheu Thai continue existing economic policies that could be carried out in tandem with new economic solutions, said Mr Kriengkrai.


Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association, said most foreign tourists do not care about a country's politics when planning a trip overseas, though they prefer to travel in a safe environment.

Though the stability of the government might not directly affect how confident tourists are feeling, if the relevant ministries fail to work together to solve obstacles that affect tourists, this will eventually have a negative impact on the industry, she said.

One example is the problem of seasonal smog in Chiang Mai, which requires integrated solutions involving many ministries, said Mrs Marisa.

Another issue concerns inequality of opportunity for small and mid-sized operators, who have endured a slower pace of recovery than major investors and conglomerates, she said.

Mrs Marisa said the reason these problems still persist today is a lack of commitment and cooperation between political parties in the past.

Chamnan Srisawat, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, said he hopes the government can maintain stability and not dissolve the parliament too soon.

However, all parties acknowledge that creating seamless collaboration between ministries continues to pose a challenge.

For example, to amend the Hotel Act, the Interior Ministry must work with the Tourism and Sports Ministry to alleviate obstacles facing operators who want to register, but are unable to do so because of restrictions under existing laws.

The new government, an 11-party coalition with 314 seats, should focus on economic stimulus measures for the remainder of this year, according to academics. Chanat Katanyu


A political coalition between Pheu Thai, the UTN and PPRP was always going to raise doubts regarding the stability of the new administration, as the party receiving the most votes in the election, Move Forward, views this alliance as unacceptable, as do many observers.

Moreover, Pheu Thai's announcement the coalition government will push for an amendment to the 2017 constitution to allow the law to be more compatible with political affairs could mean the Srettha administration is unable to complete a four-year term.

"An amendment is unavoidable," said Mr Kriengkrai.

"This can cause disagreements among political parties, leading to House dissolution."

Nattachart Mekmasin, research manager at Trinity Securities, believes the Srettha administration is relatively stable.

Given the ruling coalition has 314 MPs, Mr Srettha said the new government is in control.

Mr Nattachart said he believes during the first 3-6 months, there could be a cabinet reshuffle, which is considered normal practice in the early stages of an administration.

In the meantime, the government needs to monitor the opposition parties and whether there are political demonstrations, he said.


Therdsak Thaveeteeratham, executive vice-president of Asia Plus Securities, agreed the stability level of the new government is high, as there are more than 300 MPs in the ruling coalition.

"It should be able to stay together for a long time, at least until the constitution is amended," he said.

Given the popularity of the Move Forward Party, which won the most seats in the general election but was excluded from the governing coalition, Mr Therdsak said if parliament is dissolved too soon, this could put Pheu Thai and its coalition partners at a disadvantage.

"The ruling coalition should stay in office for at least 2-3 years and amend the constitution," he said.

Mr Therdsak said the political situation outside parliament is unlikely to be serious or violent, assuming there is no dissolution of the Move Forward Party.

"Nowadays people use social media a lot and have quick access to information about politics," he said.

"Yet trends change rapidly, so maybe in 2-3 years, political parties will gain or lose popularity."

Prasarn Trairatvorakul, chairman of the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET), said the government should create stability and work together to restore public confidence.

Mr Srettha, a property tycoon-turned-politician, was accused of tax evasion while at Sansiri Plc, the property development company he founded.

Mr Prasarn said governance is a very important issue. In business circles, good governance is critical to achieving public confidence.

The SET is concerned about this matter because it has been trying to promote transparency in doing business, he said.


Somchai Sittichaisrichart, managing director of IT product distributor SIS Distribution (Thailand), said the country is familiar with uncertainty and political upheaval, while the economy is driven by the corporate sector.

He said having a new government is better than having a caretaker administration.

The new government should rush to disburse the budget by the end of this year or the first quarter of next year in order to stimulate the economy, said Mr Somchai.

Sanan Angubolkul, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said the business sector is not particularly concerned about the stability of the coalition government.

"The new government must work proactively, and the private sector is willing and ready to collaborate," said Mr Sanan.

He said Pheu Thai might have clear policies regarding economic stimulus, but the chamber still wants the government to expedite urgent measures within the first 100 days in office.

These measures include reducing the cost of living for people and cutting costs for the private sector, such as fuel prices and power bills, which are still at a high level, along with facilitating access to capital for entrepreneurs.

The chamber wants to emphasise streamlining capital access for entrepreneurs, said Mr Sanan.

The new government is also being urged to enhance the tourism sector, a key driver of the Thai economy, for the upcoming high season, he said.

"We hope the new government will introduce policies that focus on economic recovery and measures to support both domestic and foreign investment," said Mr Prasarn.

Populist policies are good for the people, but long-term benefits must also be considered, he said.

The economic environment at home and abroad is uncertain, with a relatively high level of risk, said Mr Prasarn.

He said economic policies should focus on maintaining market confidence in terms of financial and economic stability.

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