Supoj pick shows haste

Supoj pick shows haste

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha raised many eyebrows when he appointed the secretary-general of the National Security Council, Supoj Malaniyom, to oversee the nation's energy and food security issues.

Gen Supoj's appointment means the prime minister is choosing a career military officer to help bring down rising energy and food prices, problems which are affecting all Thais -- especially fixed-wage and low-income earners -- with the exception of oil refineries, which are reaping substantial profits from soaring oil prices.

Government sceptics are wondering why a career military officer was made responsible for non-military affairs instead of ministers whose jobs are to oversee such issues. Are Energy Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow and Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanavisit both so incompetent in the eyes of Gen Prayut that an army general has to be brought in to do their jobs?

The problem the country is facing right now isn't shortages of oil and/or food -- the absence of which could be considered a threat to national security. Instead, the issue lies with their prices, which seem to be rising by the day.

Soaring oil prices, especially diesel fuel on which most lorries and public transportation vehicles rely on, have driven up the cost of transporting goods. This, in turn, has prompted traders to increase prices, be it vegetables, meat, cooking oil, ready-made food, etc.

Profiteering by unscrupulous traders, too, is believed to have added to consumers' suffering by arbitrarily jacking up the price of goods to maximise their profits.

There are 46 goods and five services whose prices are controlled by the Price of Goods and Services Act, including pork, cooking oil and oil products. But the Act has proven to be useless, as officials who are in charge of enforcing it have consistently failed to do their job properly. As such, renewing price controls, which expired on June 30 until the end of the year, is pointless.

Oil products are more complicated, as their price depends on the figures listed in Singapore -- the largest market in the region whose prices are considered a reliable indicator. Nevertheless, oil refineries in Thailand have been making profits.

The government is reluctant to force six refineries which are making profits to cut back their profit margin, known as the gross refining margin, to help ease the financial burden on the consumers. Instead, it has recently sought their cooperation to share some of their profit -- about 5 billion baht a month for three months -- to shore up the depleting Oil Fuel Fund to subsidise diesel and gas prices.

How this problem will be settled remains to be seen. But the prime minister appears to be growing impatient and summoned the help of the NSC chief, the jack-of-all-trades who is also the chief of operations centre of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) and chair of the National Preparations Committee.

The task is a real challenge for the NSC chief. It is also crucial for the prime minister's political future, especially at a time when his popularity is sinking.

The PM will be held responsible for the outcome of the NSC's actions. After all, good leadership is all about getting the right man to do the right job.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

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