Srettha sees plate fill up
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Srettha sees plate fill up

More than three months since the May 14 general election and after a series of elaborate political dramas, Thailand finally has a new prime minister.

Srettha Thavisin -- a successful local real estate developer and rookie Pheu Thai Party politician -- was yesterday appointed Thailand's 30th prime minister.

Society can now breathe a sigh of relief and the stock market has responded well to the news.

Yet the new PM will have to deal with high expectations. Minutes after he was elected on Tuesday, voters and the media asked when the party would be sending 10,000 baht to everyone's digital wallets as promised.

Within weeks, the new PM will have to deal with populist pledges his party made during the election campaign -- 10,000 baht to be given to everyone aged over 16, raising the daily wage to 600 baht in the next three years, guaranteeing a 25,000-baht monthly salary for graduates with bachelor's degrees, and for Bangkok voters, a 20 baht flat-rate ticket fee for all city trains.

All this will be good for Pheu Thai if there is plenty of money in the country's coffers. Yet the new government and Mr Srettha are unlikely to be that lucky.

Household debt has skyrocketed, exports have flattened out and the government has borrowed far too much over the past few years dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, so the war chest might not have enough in it for the Pheu Thai government to fulfil its pledges.

Another challenge for Mr Srettha and the new government is the trust issue. Labelled as the protector of democracy for over a decade, Pheu Thai is suffering from an image crisis like never before after it ditched ideological ally the Move Forward Party and jumped into bed with the so-called "uncle" parties -- the United Thai Nation Party and Palang Pracharath Party.

Mr Srettha will also have many headaches dealing with accusations regarding his business ethics during his time at Sansiri -- the real estate development firm he ran. It is hoped the new PM will be able to clear up any allegations so he can dedicate his time to serving the nation.

This means the Pheu Thai-led government must excel and be inspiring. The government must show it is modern and agile, a government that not only works hard but is smart enough to improve bread-and-butter issues and improve the country's competitiveness on all fronts.

But most of all, the Pheu Thai government must implement structural reform in society at large, including the political arena. Despite having allied with junta parties, it must promote freedom of expression and human rights.

Despite obstacles, the new government has a chance to initiate military reform and declare a war on corruption. In terms of business, the new PM -- who is a seasoned CEO -- must make business transparent and fair for all competitors, not just a few dominant players.

Above all, it is hoped the new government will do what previous governments, especially the outgoing Prayut cabinet, failed to do: making opaque practices transparent and accountable to public scrutiny.

These are not easy tasks. Yet there is one thing the Pheu Thai-led government can do now to make its popularity soar.

Known as a man with a mind of his own, Mr Srettha must make sure the Justice Ministry treats Thaksin Shinawatra, now a state prisoner, with fairness not favouritism.

That would be a great start for our new PM.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

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