New kid on the block at Finance speaks out
May 19, 2001
In an exclusive interview with The Nation's Thanong
Khanthong, Finance Minister Dr Somkid Jatusripitak gives an assessment
of his own performance during his first three months in office.
Thanong: How do you evaluate or rate your performance over the past
Somkid: I cannot score myself. It depends on how others look at my performance.
But I and everybody else in the government have been working very hard
from day one. Apart from my responsibilities at the Finance Ministry,
I have been involved in four workshops on the national asset-management
corporation, tourism, capital-market development and the village fund.
I have already met representatives of the International Monetary Fund,
Standard & Poor's and Moody's. Then I went to the finance ministers'
meeting in Kuala Lumpur and to the meeting of the Asian Development Bank
Do you feel under pressure when you are subject to criticism?
This is quite normal. I understand how other people feel. I don't feel
upset, because the people out there really have high hopes but they are
in difficulty. They need help.
But people are saying that the government has not done anything much
over the past three months, except organise workshops.?
That's a misunderstanding. But we blame ourselves for not being good
enough at publicising our work. All the workshops are useful, marking
the first time that the government has managed the affairs of the country
based on policies. The workshops bring together different departments
and agencies and the people from the private sector to the same table
and discuss the way out. Then we have operational teams to follow up,
not to mention the legal team.
We have not been around for three months as yet. But from now on you'll
begin to see progress. We'll have legislation on the Thai Asset Management
Corporation ready in early June. The debt-suspension programme has already
been implemented. The health-care programme has also started in some pilot
hospitals. The People's Bank will come soon. The village fund, designed
to stimulate the rural economy, will be4 ready in July.
On Thursday evening we also stayed up late to complete a package on capital-market
development. For the first time we'll have a framework ready for the bond
market to develop. And this is very important.
The government appears to respond too little too late on the economic
That depends on how you look at the economy. Unfortunately, after two
months in office we faced a sharp slowdown in the US and Japanese economies,
which affected our exports. We have asked ourselves whether a vacuum will
be created by external factors which will lead us to do something to stimulate
the economy. Still, I have a team consisting of representatives of the
Bank of Thailand, the National Economic and Social Development Board and
the Thailand Development Research Institute to monitor economic conditions
That's why we are pushing the TAMC and the village fund, so that they
can work in time to stimulate the economy. The TAMC should enable the
banks to lend more money, while the village fund will stimulate the economy
at the grass roots. We will also be making an additional Bt50 billion
of deficit spending available for the next fiscal year for workers' retraining
if the situation warrants it.
Next week I will summon a meeting of all the public-sector banks to give
them a directive on lending. They will have to take the lead in lending
money to the cash-strapped economy. This will put pressure on the commercial
banks to follow suit.
Is it true that you and Pansak Vinyaratn, chief adviser to the Prime
Minister, are at loggerheads?
Virtually groundless. Pansak and I have known each other for more than
10 years. I was the one who brought him to the Thai Rak Thai Party. In
fact, the two of us were responsible for drafting the manifesto of the
Thai Rak Thai, which led to the landslide victory in the January general
election. If we cannot work with each other, then nobody can. I think
our team is getting along well. Although most of us are new to the job,
we are now quite comfortable with the direction we a re going in.