In some ways, it looks as if the generals that deposed elected
prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a bloodless coup last month
want to institute a completely new economic doctrine.
Retired General Surayud Chulanont, the junta-appointed premier,
initially worried the business community when he told reporters his
one-year government would focus on "sufficiency economy" and
"indicators of happiness" instead of economic growth.
But while foreign investors have reason to fear that some parts
of Thailand's open economy may start to close up, local business
leaders expect the changes in economic policy to be largely
"Maybe in the short term we'll see some overreaction in dealing
with Mr. Thaksin's policies, but as time goes on people will see the
positive side of being more moderate," said Twatchai Yongkittikul,
secretary-general of the Thai Bankers' Association. "Most of the old
economic policies will continue. The interim government should focus
on political reforms, so it's unlikely they will implement new
Thai economy surprisingly stable
For all the political chaos Thailand has seen over the past year,
the economy has proved refreshingly stable. Inflation is under
control, the current account is running a surplus, and stronger than
expected growth in both exports and tourism has helped offset a
decline in domestic demand. Economists expect that a more stable
government - regardless of whether the military installed it -
should unleash a torrent of pent-up consumer spending and
"All in all, things look good. The economy should bottom out in
the fourth quarter and then start recovering next year," said Ussara
Wiraipitch, a senior economist at Standard Chartered. The London-
based bank is forecasting Thailand's GDP to grow 5.2 percent next
year, much higher than the expected 4.1 percent growth this year.
The government's new economic team, led by respected former
central bank chief and new finance minister Pridiyathorn Devakula,
has already taken measures to reassure investors. It quickly
approved a budget for the next fiscal year and said public
investment projects would go forward as planned.
"The government will immediately start with [infrastructure
projects] that are economically viable," Mr. Pridiyathorn told
reporters. "We will invest prudently."
The measured tone of the military-appointed government contrasts
sharply with the relentless marketing that characterized Thaksin's
administration. Under the self-styled CEO prime minister, the
government aggressively pursued privatization, free-trade deals, and
cheap lending programs - and gave every new project a brand name.
Government spending programs became "megaprojects." A plan to
develop top clothing designers turned into "Bangkok Fashion City."
An initiative to promote more Thai restaurants overseas made
Thailand the "Kitchen of the World. …