Finance minister resigned because of internal politics, staff appointments

Finance Minister Predee Daochai’s shock resignation on Tuesday was the result of internal political conflicts within the cabinet over staff appointments, multiple sources told Thai Enquirer.

Predee resigned less than one month after being appointed to his position. The former head of Kasikorn Bank was handpicked by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha to help run the economic portfolio after a lengthy search.

Both Predee and the government said that the resignation was because of health reasons, with Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan even going as far as to say that Predee had suffered from a stroke.

But multiple sources inside the cabinet and in the coalition government told Thai Enquirer on Wednesday that Predee was “just healthy” and that internal bickering had led to the resignation.

“Predee was unhappy that he couldn’t bring his people in without significant pushback from Deputy Finance Minister Santi (Promphat) who wanted his own people in,” a source said on the condition of anonymity.

According to the source, Predee eventually got some of his appointments but it was with great difficulty.

“I think Predee is used to the professionalism of a well run private company so once he saw the kind of uphill struggle he would have with this government, he just cut his losses,” the source said.

According to insiders within the government, part of the pushback by Santi on appointments was because the Prawit faction of the Palang Pracharath Party wanted to install their people in key positions and were unhappy that Prime Minister Prayut did not install party loyalists to ministerial positions and chose a technocrat instead.

Potential Candidates

Predee’s resignation also has the government rushing to find a replacement and save face over the high profile kerfuffle.

The resignation came at an especially bad time for the Prayut government with the economy suffering from the impact of the coronavirus lockdown.

Among the names being thrown around by coalition partners in the last 24 hours to fill the position includes Deputy Labour Minister Naruemon Pinyosinwat, outgoing Bank of Thailand Governor Veerathai Santiprapob, and Klaa Party Leader Korn Chatikavanij.

Neutral Gear

The government has been under pressure for some time from a shrinking economy with estimates ranging from 8 per cent to 12 per cent contraction for 2020 and the resignation will put more pressure on the cabinet.

Economic analysts say that unless tourists levels resume in 2021, it is unlikely that Thailand will see a U-shaped recovery.

“We have not had a properly functioning Economics Team for nearly three months now – too long in my view,” said Maria Lapiz, Head of Institutional Research at Maybank Kim Eng Thailand.

“There is an urgency now of having a well-functioning Economics Team because many of the ad hoc programs crafted back in April to cushion the downside from Covid-19 measures are finishing soon,” she told Thai Enquirer.

The lack of economic policy direction will also likely impact investor confidence, a further blow to an already weakened economy.

Unless a new team is appointed immediately, analysts worry that the economy might shift into ‘neutral gear’ at a crucial time, with relief measures needing to be renewed and next year’s budget soon to be passed.

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