Thailand's Prime Minister Annouces New Cabinet
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A meeting between Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen would probably pave the way for a resumption of the General Border Committee (GBC) meetings, which have long been stalled, Defence Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa said on Wednesday.
The new defence minister said he would give priority to solving the Thai-Cambodian border problem. He would make an inspection trip to the border in Si Sa Ket province. "I would like the army chief (Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha) to know that I will next week make a private trip to visit the three southern border provinces. "After that I will go to Si Sa Ket in Army Region 2 to see the Thai-Cambodian border situation at Preah Vihear temple to get first-hand information so that I can discuss the matter with commanders of the armed forces. "My priority is to solve the border problem," Gen Yutthasak said.
Gen Yutthasak said since Hun Sen appeared to be on good terms with Ms Yingluck, he would like the two to meet so that the Cambodian prime minister would give the green light for Gen Tea Banh, the Cambodian defence minister, to agree to a GBC meeting.
Defense & Security
Gen Yutthasak Sasiprapa said on Wednesday that no commanders of the armed forces will be removed after he officially takes office as the new defence minister.
He said he will start working after the prime minister has delivered the government’s policy statement to the parliament. Gen Yutthasak urged all parties to feel comfortable. He would have discussions with all parties concerned before any high ranking military officials are transferred. Currently, only three high ranking military officials are due to be replaced because their tenure is ending — the permanent secretary for defence, the supreme commander and the navy chief.
The Energy Policy Administration Committee today jacked up the Oil Fund's levy on diesel sale by another 90 satang per litre, from Bt1.90 to Bt2.80, in light of falling oil prices. "The adjustment will increase the contribution to the Oil Fund from Bt55 per day to Bt104 million or about Bt3.2 billion," said Energy Permanent Secretary Norkun Sitthiphong, as chairman of the committee.
Newly appointed Finance Minister Thirachai Phuvanatnaranubala promises to maintain tight fiscal discipline while carrying out Pheu Thai's economic policies.
Mr Thirachai conceded through his Facebook page that he had not taken part in drafting Pheu Thai's polices but he agreed to the policies because they aim to improve people's living standards, especially those on low incomes. "I will balance the political dream with the academic possibility. I will be the coordinator between civil servants and the party's policies to ensure maximum coherence," he said. He said inflationary pressure from the 300-baht minimum wage increase would be shortlived.
"Since the wage hike results in 'cost-push' inflation, it will push up goods prices only in the year the wage increase is implemented. The impact on the economy will not last long," he said. As such, the inflationary pressure would not be as serious as when it is pulled by demand. However, he noted the Commerce Ministry would have to accommodate it, by ensuring necessary hikes in goods prices.
Kittirat Na Ranong, who is likely to be the new commerce minister, will have to tackle the problem of soaring prices of pork, fresh foods and other consumer goods urgently after the ministry's prolonged role in dealing with the rocketing price of pork and other essential goods.
Although the retail prices of pork are capped at Bt152-Bt162 a kilogram, the Commerce Ministry has received many complaints about overcharging because of supply shortage and higher production costs. Prices have been quoted at between Bt170 and Bt180 per kilo in some provinces. The ministry yesterday sought the 77 provincial governors' cooperation in stringently controlling retail pork prices in their areas as prices skyrocket amid reduced supply, said Vatchari Vimooktayon, director-general of the Internal Trade Department.
The Pheu Thai government has been focusing too narrowly on shortsighted schemes while it should be knocking out long-horizon policies to buttress the country's ability to compete with its regional rivals, the business community said yesterday.
"The new government should think about this, or we cannot compete with other Asean members such as Malaysia, Singapore, even Indonesia once the AEC is in place," he said. The Thailand Management Association (TMA) together with the TCC and the Thai Institute of Directors has set an ambitious target to lift Thailand's competitiveness ranking to 15 from the current 27 by 2015 so that it will be ready for the advent of the Asean Economic Community (AEC).
The new government's argument for a sovereign wealth fund is making more sense as US debt quality is deteriorating, but public and private debts could spiral out of control, as in the euro zone.
"The US debt downgrade may make the idea to create a sovereign wealth fund much more appealing," Praipol Koomsup, an economist at Thammasat University, said yesterday. The new government floated the notion of establishing a sovereign wealth fund to make use of part of its US$180-billion (Bt5.37 trillion) international reserves.
When the new information and communications technology (ICT) minister takes office, he or she will find that the Software Industry Promotion Agency (Sipa) has already begun preparing the industry to support the ICT policies of the incoming government.
The agency has made new moves to promote the local software industry and better equip it to deal with the new government's policies of spreading ICT literacy and providing information technology to improve the quality of life of Thai people.
Sipa's acting president, Niracharapa Tongdhamachart said the agency was awaiting Board of Investment approval of a plan under which local software businesses with registered capital of Bt500,000 to Bt1 million would qualify for tax exemption for eight years. The agency expects an official announced of the plan before the end of this year.
Thailand's six major airports including Suvarnabhumi posted an 18.2% rise in passenger traffic in the first half of this year to 33.5 million, underscoring the country's position as one of the busiest in the region for civil aviation.
High double-digit growth will likely continue through the second half thanks largely to the expected absence of further domestic political turmoil that chased away foreign tourists over the past two-and-a-half years. Industry analysts say travel demand in the high season, which begins in late October, will also likely expedite growth in passenger traffic. Figures from Airports of Thailand Plc show international passenger throughput from January to June rose 20.5% year-on-year to 21.3 million, while domestic traffic increased by 14.4% to 12.2 million.
Orient Thai Airlines is revamping its fleet with the introduction of Boeing 737 Classic jets to replace the vintage McDonnell Douglas 80-series aircraft. The Thai carrier opted for the US-made Boeings after its plan to acquire 12 Sukhoi Superjet narrow-body jets from Moscow-based Sukhoi Civil Aircraft (SCAC) did not materialise. Orient Thai founder Udom Tantiprasongchai said SCAC's inability to meet promised delivery dates was due to delays in certification of airworthiness of its new aircraft.
The earliest SCAC could deliver its aircraft was 2015-16, three to four years behind the airline's requirement. Orient Thai had a non-binding memorandum of understanding with SCAC for two years to purchase 12 jets with an option for another 12. The jets cost US$25 million apiece, and talks involved SCAC establishing a Sukhoi aircraft maintenance centre and pilot training facility in Thailand.
The Cabinet of the first female premier of Thailand, which officially received royal endorsement Tuesday night, will on Wednesday evening have an audience with His Majesty the King in order to swear an oath of allegiance.
The freshly endorsed Cabinet might not be that ugly duckling cabinet lineup but it might not project bright future for the new government as well, said political observers. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's cabinet lineup is actually quite acceptable according to political commentators as it doesn't include any members of the "Red Shirt" movement. The former deputy House speaker Apiwan Wiriyachai, the only Red Shirt core figure on the cabinet list, was proposed with PM's office minister but he eventually declined. About 80 percent of the cabinet members or 29 out of 35 are selected from Pheu Thai members while four come under the quota of coalition parties and two are outsiders. Most of them appears to have very close ties with the Shinawatra family, namely the ousted former PM Thaksin Shinawatra and his two sisters Yaowapa and Yingluck.
Revenue officials have been urged to pursue a tax claim against former premier Thaksin Shinawatra for profits gained from the 2006 sale of Shin Corp shares to Temasek Holdings. Former finance minister Korn Chatikavanij slammed the Revenue Department for its failure to take action after he had asked it several times to clarify its position.
The Finance Ministry this week formally acknowledged it would not appeal a judgement by the Tax Court to dismiss a 12-billion-baht tax assessment against Pinthongta and Panthongtae Shinawatra for the Shin Corp sale. It is not known when the Tax Court actually submitted its judgement notice to the Revenue Department. By law, the department would have 60 days to appeal after receiving the notice. Mr Korn said he had asked the Revenue Department for clarification on the issue several times over the past several months with no clear reply.
A schedule for future meetings of the House of Representatives has been agreed on by representatives of all political parties, House Speaker Somsak Kiatsuranont said on Tuesday. He said it was agreed that the House would meet twice a week - on Wednesday and Thursday.
On Wednesday the House would sit from 10.30am to 7pm, and on Thursday from 10.30am to 5pm. The legislative session of the House of Representatives would start on Feb 1, 2012 and continue for 120 days before the House goes into recess for 60 days. The agreement reached today would be tabled to a House meeting on Wednesday for approval. Mr Somsak said he believed the new meeting schedule would help solve the problem of House meetings running short of a quorum.