Thailand: Thailand reshuffles Cabinet amid economic and political uncertainty
August 21, 2015
Earlier this month, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-Cha reshuffled his Cabinet less than a year after it was formed in a bid to kick-start a sagging economy. The overhaul saw the introduction of 11 new cabinet ministers as well as the shifting of 9 current ministers to different positions. The highlight of the new line-up is the appointment of Somkid Jatusripitak as the new deputy minister, a position which was previously occupied by MR Pridiyathorn Devakula. Jatusripitak, who is also an adviser to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), will be the head of the new economic team. While the move will most probably help restore confidence, much will depend on how fast the government implements economic reforms.
The government saw the reshuffling as necessary given the challenges that the ruling junta has faced since it took office last year. While government spending has increased considerably, private consumption and fixed investment remain weak due to low confidence. Adding to that, a bomb blast at a popular shrine in Bangkok this month, which killed 20 people including foreigners, is expected to make things worse, especially since tourism accounts for a good share of Thailand’s economic output.
Politically, a timetable for the return to democracy is still vague. The government has declared that it will hold general elections in mid-2016. However, the polls could be postponed if the new draft constitution is not approved by the NCPO in early September. While the recent bomb attack might buy the military junta some time, the postponement of democratic elections could raise the possibility of renewed violence between supporters and opponents of the government.
Author: Dirina Mançellari, Senior Economist