Economic failure and the political war

8 08 2015

As any long-term reader knows, we at PPT are not the brightest of sparks when it comes to economics. Yet one is not required to be an expert on the dismal science to know that things aren’t going well in Thailand, except for the Teflon-coated super-rich.

Bloomberg columnist with a strident anti-Thaksin Shinawatra set of columns behind him, William Pesek writes about the economic failures of the military dictatorship.

He begins by noting that in the economic field, despite promises, General Prayuth Chan-Ocha and his junta “has only made things worse.” He says:

Thailand’s growth is the slowest among developing nations, its exports may contract 4 percent this year and Bangkok is the only major Asian stock market experiencing outflows. The currency is down 7 percent in six months.

He adds that: “Factory output has fallen every month but one since March 2013, while exports have declined every month this year.”

Pesek thinks that the reason for this decline is that the junta “lacks an economic strategy. He and his team are so preoccupied micro-managing small-scale public order issues … that they’re neglecting the big picture.”

Should anyone be surprised? What happened after the 2006 coup? The military appointed a bunch of aging royal loyalists to run the country. For a time, sufficiency economy nonsense was promoted, but there was economic torpor. In economic charge, for a time, was the aristocratic Pridiyathorn Devakula, who was so hopeless and lacking in ideas that he was eventually sacked.

What happened after the 2014 coup? Pretty much the same thing, including the appointment of the somnolent Pridiyathorn. The result has been worse than the first time around.

Why repeat the economic mistakes of 2006? The answer is that the military dictatorship is not just economically incompetent, but is politically driven. Its task is political: uprooting the “Thaksin regime.” If this means economic decline, the military is prepared to accept that.

The junta’s anti-democrat supporters are an odd bunch, and in supporting the military’s political mission there has been a strong aversion to “money politics” and “policy corruption” that has included an element of anti-capitalism, in favor of sufficiency economy. Only loyal royalist capitalists are tolerated.

Hence, when The Dictator “explains” economic decline, he says it is a “product of his valiant corruption crackdown (and partly weak exports, too).” He quotes Prayuth: “It’s because some people spend money from illegal businesses and money from fraud…. Now the government has come to set things right, causing that money to disappear.”

Pesek thinks “Prayuth would be wise to reshuffle his cabinet, half of which is comprised of military personnel with little experience in their portfolios.”

That might make some sense, but it would mean abandoning the political war and would be opposed by Suthep Thaugsuban and his anti-democrats.

Pesek suggests that “Prayuth’s first step should be to accelerate the government’s $54 billion spending plans for roads, mass transit and other projects.”

That might make some sense, but it would mean abandoning the political war and would be opposed by the anti-democrats who would label it “populist.”

Pesek also suggests that “Prayuth also must set a clear timetable for relinquishing power.”

That might make some sense, but it would mean abandoning the political war and would be opposed by the anti-democrats.