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Suchart Jaovisidha, Thailand's finance minister: The trials of a robust performer

Euromoney's Chris Cockerill speaks to Suchart Jaovisidha, Thailand's new finance minister, about non-performing loans, competition from China, the impact of Sars on tourism earnings and the plan for a pan-Asian investment fund, the Asia Bond Fund

IT'S JUST OVER a month since Thailand's three-month anti-drug crusade came to an end. If success is judged by body count, the campaign gets a grade A. By April 30, 2,274 people had been killed as a direct result of this sharp, brutal war. With these statistics filling the newspapers, along with the histrionics about Sars sweeping Asia, it's perhaps not surprising that the appointment of Suchart Jaovisidha as Thailand's finance minister in February has been somewhat overshadowed.

Last month, however, Jaovisidha finally managed to grab some attention, though perhaps not the type he would have hoped for. On May 12 an electrical fault trapped him in his official BMW as he was being driven to a meeting. Unable to unlock the doors or lower the windows he was only released after a guard took a sledgehammer to the glass to bust the minister out into a blaze of publicity.

But attention now finally seems to be focusing on the Thai economy. One of the region's more robust performers, it is attracting compliments. Last year economic growth rates of over 5% were reported and this year a 3.5-4.5% figure looks to be equally impressive despite the global and regional challenges.

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