Thai cabinet reshuffle likely, Kittirat may be finmin

Wednesday, 18 January 2012 00:03 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand’s cabinet is expected to be reshuffled soon, with Kittirat Na Ranong, the deputy prime minister in charge of economic affairs, becoming finance minister and new ministers of energy and industry also appointed, media said on Tuesday.

The cabinet reshuffle reported by Thai newspapers was “about 90 percent accurate”, according to Kittirat, while a government spokeswoman said 10 changes had already been submitted to King Bhumibol Adulyadej for his endorsement.

The reshuffle would see Kittirat, 53, a former broker and president of the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET), take over from Thirachai Phuvanatnaranubala, who joined the cabinet on Aug. 10 last year after serving as head of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and before that as a deputy central bank governor. The changes are unlikely to lead to any real shift in the government’s pro-growth economic policies, which have been driven largely by Kittirat, backed by self-exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, the influential elder brother of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Other expected moves are the replacement of Industry Minister Wannarat Channukul and Energy Minister Pichai Naripthaphan, with Deputy Finance Minister Boonsong Teriyaphirom taking over Kittirat’s other position as commerce minister.

“I believe the reshuffle will be good for the administration and the country and this will be decided by the prime minister,” Kittirat told reporters on Tuesday. A former businessman and Thai national team soccer manager with no political experience until his appointment last August, Kittirat served as head of the SET for five years. He has also been chairman of Cathay Asset Management and brokerage First Asia Securities.

Kittirat, who has played a big role in attempts to restore investor confidence after devastating floods last year, has an MBA in Finance and International Business from the Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University.

He is in charge of the government’s controversial rice intervention policy, which guarantees high prices for farmers, and has in the past criticised the central bank’s monetary policy, advocating cuts in rates at a time when the Bank of Thailand was worried about inflation.

The central bank did cut rates in November but that was in reaction to severe floods that devastated industry.

Despite criticism from economists, Kittirat has promised to implement other populist policies, such as a big increase in the minimum wage, that were crucial to the Puea Thai Party’s landslide election victory last July.