Focus on competence
Thailand will lose the chance to lead disruptive changes in the digital and education sector if Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha continues to allow political jockeying for cabinet quotas dominate his decision on the forthcoming cabinet reshuffle.
Despite an impending reshuffle -- now inevitable after a Criminal Court ruling effectively stripped Buddhipongse Punnakanta, Nataphol Teepsuwan and Thaworn Senniam of their posts as Digital Economy and Society (DES) Minister, Education Minister and Deputy Transport Minister, respectively -- no politicians in the coalition seem to be paying attention to problems which may arise from the vacancies.
Instead, everyone is focusing on ministerial quotas and nominating candidates to fill the posts.
As Buddhipongse and Nataphol were sentenced to seven years in jail, according to Section 160 (7) of the 2017 constitution, they cannot serve in the cabinet.
Prime Minister Prayut has insisted he has the final say on the reshuffle and there would be no "outsiders" in the cabinet line-up. However, he said it's up to respective parties leaders to nominate candidates, in accordance with political party quotas.
This means that politicians will be lobbying hard to increase their chances of securing the positions, particularly the Education and DES portfolios, which are considered important.
Over the past week, several politicians have approached Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, a Palang Pracharath Party leader, in the hope of securing a slice of the cabinet cake.
Although Gen Prayut said the reshuffle is his call, it's no secret Gen Prawit also has a big say in the matter, as the "big brother" of Gen Prayut when they served in the military.
These politicians know that Gen Prayut may ignore their requests at first, but he will listen to Gen Prawit's advice.
The DES and Education ministries are crucial to Thailand's efforts to expand its digital and knowledge-based economy, so both ministries need visionary leaders who can bring about substantial policy changes which could lead to greater development.
The DES Ministry, for example, must develop the country's digital infrastructure and ecosystem. Its new leader should be aware of the ministry's core tasks, and he or she must not obsess so much over suppressing government critics using tactics which violate freedom of speech and further polarises the society.
Education, however, needs particular attention as it is the foundation on which the Thailand's human resources and the nation's future is built on.
Thai students consistently perform below international standards in various standardised tests, which shows the urgent need to revise policies, action plans and the curriculum to equip Thais with knowledge and skills they need to adapt and thrive in a fast-changing world.
As a result, anyone who will take the helm of these two ministries must be competent and able to drive changes to accommodate rapid changes in future development.
Unfortunately, Gen Prayut has not showed decisive leadership by choosing the most most suitable candidates to fill in the new cabinet vacancies.
Instead, he appeared to bow to political pressure regarding cabinet quotas.
Given the circumstances, it seems likely that Thais won't see positive breakthroughs for the benefit of the country's digital and education developments.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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