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General news >> Thursday May 10, 2007
EXCLUSIVE

CHATUMONGOL HINTS AT FUTURE POLITICAL ROLE

Former BoT governor ready to help Abhisit

Story by PARISTA YUTHAMANOP

Former Bank of Thailand governor M.R. Chatumongol Sonakul has indicated he may enter the political arena if Democrat party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva heads the next government. M.R. Chatumongol, 64, was the central bank governor from 1998 to May 2001, when he was dismissed by the Thaksin Shinawatra government over policy conflicts.

''I wouldn't say 'enter politics'. But I would probably help Mr Abhisit personally. There have been some discussions over the matter,'' M.R. Chatumongol told the Bangkok Post.

''No matter what, Mr Abhisit is a person with a good academic record. He has spent a long time in politics and remains untainted. He deserves to receive help.''

M.R. Chatumongol said his future would depend on the Constitution Tribunal's ruling on May 30 on whether the Democrat and Thai Rak Thai parties will be dissolved for poll fraud related to last year's House elections.

''It is still not known whether Mr Abhisit will stay or leave,'' he said. ''Let's keep guessing until May 30. The difference between the three possible scenarios _ one party dissolved, both parties dissolved, or none at all _ is extreme. Even if you asked me on June 1, it would still be difficult to answer,'' M.R. Chatumongol said.

M.R. Chatumongol, whose son M.L. Apimongkol was elected a Democrat MP for Bangkok in 2005, roundly criticised the populist policies championed by the Thaksin government as ultimately ''self-defeating''.

''People who got money did not think hard about how to use it. People who got motorcycles became motorcycle taxi drivers. Many got rich. When more people became motorcycle taxi drivers, they ended up earning just 100 baht a day,'' he said.

''I used to survey some of those drivers. Many said they would not vote for Thai Rak Thai anymore.''

The plain-spoken technocrat, who spent much of his four decades in public service with the Finance Ministry, said the government's economic policies should aim at ''accumulating capital goods'' for the country, instead of creating employment as in the case of the Thaksin administration.

''Any attempt to create petty jobs is unnecessary. It takes time to have people employed. Policies should focus on providing machines and know-how,'' he said.

''In any case, it takes time for this to happen. Capital goods will be productive only if there are people to utilise them. The key is feasibility in project financing. I have never seen such exercises taken seriously. Instead, discussions have focused on how many routes of mass transit systems we are going to build.''

M.R.Chatumongol also said the government's economic policies should create an environment of ''open competition'' for the business sector.

''Since 1997, Thailand has passed through two kinds of economic policy environments. The first was based on the idea that 'the government knows better', where the government ordered the private sector what to do. The second one centred on the government, which thought it was more experienced than the private sector and said what businesses should and should not do,'' he said.

''We have never had a system that encouraged the private sector to compete together. Under such an environment, some may succeed, some may go under. But overall, it will be better than the systems that we have had so far.''

Since leaving the central bank, M.R.Chatumongol has become a private entrepreneur, involved in ventures in the restaurant and clothing sectors as well as being a consultant for hotel and property businesses.

He said he had no real motivation to return to the public sector or national politics, but only monitored developments thanks to his son.

''I'm an achievement-oriented person. I'm not a power-motivated person. I do not aspire to be a politician,'' he said. ''The time now is for myself. I will do what I like.''


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