No time for meddling
The abrupt resignation of Finance Minister Predee Daochai is unfortunate to say the least, as it came at a time when the country -- already bruised by the Covid-19 pandemic -- is in a dire need of a professional to help tackle its economic woes.
Although Mr Predee cited poor health as the reason for his sudden departure, speculation is rife that he was embroiled in a conflict with Santi Promphat -- his deputy who is also a core figure in the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) -- over the appointment of senior officials.
His pick for the Excise Department, Lavaron Sangsnit, the chief of the Fiscal Policy Office, was vetoed by the deputy minister, who preferred the director of the State Enterprise Policy Office, Prapas Kong-ied, for the position. Although Mr Predee ultimately won the battle as the cabinet chose Mr Lavaron for the job, it was said the duel with Mr Santi made him realise how much politicians' interest dictated the running of the ministry -- leaving him deeply disheartened.
A CEO with a strong background in finance, Mr Predee's appointment was hailed by the private sector. Unlike most politicians who seek to maintain their positions, Mr Predee proved to be determined, straight-forward and professional when it comes to getting the job done. Furthermore, prior to joining the cabinet, his capabilities had already been tested, as he had assisted the government as an adviser on several panels.
As such, it may seem strange that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who invited Mr Predee to join the cabinet as Finance Minister, did not try to protect his own nominee.
However, this turn of events should remind the public of the warning issued right around the time when Gen Prayut was trying to fill vacancies in his cabinet, after former PPRP leader Uttama Savanayana left with his clique. "Outsiders" who were about to join the cabinet were cautioned about working under the shadow Deputy Prime Minister and PPRP leader Prawit Wongsuwon.
It's not a secret that key figures in the PPRP are eyeing cabinet portfolios like finance and energy, as controlling them would allow them to reap major benefits, ill-gained or not. As such, they won't hesitate to do whatever to challenge, if not destroy, the outsiders.
This was the reason why other high-calibre, competent officials such as the outgoing Bank of Thailand governor Veerathai Santipraphob and former BoT governor Prasarn Trairatvorakul -- as well as former PTT president Pailin Chuchottaworn, who was approached for the energy portfolio -- all turned down the PM's invitations.
Mr Predee's resignation proved them right. It reminds us of when the Sam Mitr group -- which Mr Santi belongs to -- booted Mr Uttama and his friends from the cabinet.
Gen Prayut has admitted it is hard to get the right person for such a demanding job. He needs someone who can maintain, if not boost, investors' confidence so the economy can start to recover. But after the Predee saga, who would want to succeed him, knowing the pressures -- not only from the job, but also the meddling from self-serving politicians -- which lie ahead?
The constant disruption of the administration through political manoeuvring has raised questions about Prime Minister Prayut's leadership capabilities.
He needs to fix the problem as quickly as possible and find the right replacement for Mr Predee, or the fallout from the saga will lead to more turbulence which may eventually cost the country its' chance to turn the economy around.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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