News Column

Political influence targeted

July 26, 2014

By Wichit Chantanusornsiri, Bangkok Post, Thailand

July 26--The ongoing major overhaul of the boards of 10 specialised financial institutions signals that the junta wants to place the right men in the right jobs and uproot politicians' influence.

Politicians have always pushed their aides and siblings to sit on boards of directors of the specialised financial institutions, which have played a great role in the economy.

They have combined lending of 5.22 trillion baht, one-third of privately owned banks' outstanding loans.

The Government Savings Bank (GSB) emerged as the first specialised financial institution where the board of directors were replaced en masse.

Customs Department director-general Somchai Sujjapongse has been appointed as the bank's chairman to replace Choojira Kongkaeow, who recently resigned.

Mrs Choojira, ex-director-general of the Legal Execution Department, has a close relationship with former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat, brother-in-law of fugitive prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Areepong Bhoocha-oom, secretary-general of the Office of the Public Sector Development Commission and a former finance permanent secretary, has been appointed chairman of state-owned Krungthai Bank's board of directors

Krirk Vanikkul, the Bank of Thailand's deputy governor for financial institution stability, is tipped to be the next chairman of the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank of Thailand to replace Naris Chaiyasoot, who is now the Treasury Department's director-general.

Central bank assistant governor Salinee Wangtal is expected to be named chairwoman of GH Bank. Both will retire from their current positions at the end of September.

Mr Naris is expected to take over as chairman of the Export-Import Bank of Thailand to replace Revenue Department director-general Prasong Poontaneat.

All the directors of the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives except chairman Rungson Sriworasat, who is also finance permanent secretary, recently resigned.

Almost all the directors of the Thai Credit Guarantee Corporation and the Islamic Bank of Thailand have also stepped down.

Mr Somchai said the changes in state enterprise board members are being done in the right way.

State enterprises should run operations in ways that do not serve populist policies that can become the government's burden, he said.

Mr Somchai said he wanted to see the GSB lend more to SMEs and retail customers lacking access to financial sources.

The state bank should not compete with commercial banks, he said.

It should concentrate on improving corporate governance and upgrading its information technology system.

"The GSB must be a bank to develop small operators, and its branches must be opened in areas where financial institutions are not available," he said.

Mr Somchai said the bank plans to open 300-400 branches in areas where it has no presence.


(c)2014 the Bangkok Post (Bangkok, Thailand)

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Source: Bangkok Post (Thailand)

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