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Thailand looks to a return to growth

Thailand’s People Power Party government bears a close resemblance to Thaksin Shinawatra’s overthrown administration, and Thaksin is widely seen as its eminence grise. The government has big plans for infrastructure development but it is highly exposed to a contraction of US export demand and the potential for inflation. Eric Ellis reports.

Thailand’s new finance minister, Surapong Suebwonglee

Thailand’s new finance minister, Surapong Suebwonglee: the surprise choice for the job has been impressive

IT WAS A simple act but, for Asia, an unusual one. If it catches on, it could mark a new era for how economic policy is executed in coup-plagued Thailand. On March 8, in the surroundings of Bangkok’s mock-Venetian palazzo of a Government House, Thais witnessed a rare display of national unity when the country’s shadow finance minister called on his recently elected opposite number in government, who graciously received him.

Under the scrutiny of TV cameras, Korn Chatikavanij, the Democrat Party’s charismatic deputy leader, was warmly met in the palazzo’s grounds by aides of Thailand’s new finance minister, Surapong Suebwonglee. "I don’t think this has ever happened before," Korn noted, as he was ushered in to meet his counterpart. Then the two men, flanked by suited advisers, spent 45 minutes politely debating policy. Euromoney sat in on the meeting as Korn proffered the Democrats’ alternative blueprint for the economy, explaining that the Democrats’ policies – notably stimulating a sclerotic economy with domestic spending – were broadly of a view with Surapong.

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