Reshuffle needs thought

Reshuffle needs thought

The rise of Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon as the new leader of the coalition's core Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) has sent a clear signal that a cabinet reshuffle is pending.

The reshuffle, expected in August or September, is likely to be a major one, and now all eyes are fixed on the ministries involved with economic affairs.

The economic slump, spurred by lockdown measures to curb Covid-19 infections, may give the impression of the need for a new team. The Bank of Thailand last week reduced its economic outlook to a contraction of 8.1% this year, worse than its previous projection in March of a 5.3% contraction and deeper than the 1997 financial crisis that recorded a contraction of 7.6%.

Such gloomy prospects as the country struggles for post-pandemic recovery mean any change in economic ministries must be carefully made.

The change in the PPRP leadership on Saturday saw Gen Prawit take over the party's top position from Uttama Savanayana, the finance minister.

The ouster of the party leader was pushed by the Sam Mitr group under Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit and Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin together with the faction led by Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Thamanat Prompow.

The changes will not stop with the party positions. Obviously, the cabinet posts held by those close to Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, the government's economic guru, are also no longer deemed stable.

Sontirat Sontijirawong, the energy minister, is a close aide to Mr Somkid. He lost the position of PPRP secretary-general to Anucha Nakasai on Saturday.

Officially, Mr Somkid is not chief of the government's economic ministerial council, as he supervises the finance and energy portfolios. But it's easy for his foes to point the finger at him and his team for the economic downturn.

As a coalition government, affiliate parties are also at the helm of other key economic ministries, including the Transport Ministry, which is supervised by the Bhumjaithai Party, and the commerce and agriculture ministries overseen by the Democrat Party.

On Friday, Mr Somkid tried to shift the blame to coalition parties, saying several megaprojects under the Transport Ministry have faced long delays, affecting local investment. But that does not mean he can save the cabinet positions for his team.

Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has insisted he would not execute a reshuffle for the time being but, like it or not, he will have to in the near future.

There are both internal and external factors at play, from the various political factions within the party itself and the public who have been affected by economic hardship.

Changing economic ministers could restore public confidence and reduce political pressure. It may make the coalition look fresh and vigorous. But such a scenario would be possible only if the prime minister puts the right man in the right job.

With the current economic crisis, the selection of economic ministers must not be driven by political pressures or influence.

More than ever, the country needs professionals who are highly competent and capable of handling an economic malaise much worse than the 1997 Tom Yum Kung crisis. Gen Prayut always said it is his call to decide on a reshuffle.

Therefore, the premier must stand tall and make the right decision for the country's benefit.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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