Monday, February 22, 2010

Global Finance Minister of the Year

The Financial Times’ Banker magazine awarded the said title to British-born, Oxford-educated Khun Korn Chatikavanij, as reported by The Malaysian Insider today.

He was appointed finance minister in 2008 in the Cabinet of long-time friend and fellow Oxford alumnus Abhisit Vejjajiva, Thailand’s prime minister.

What Khun Korn Chatikavanij Says

“We always felt one day I would come into his fold as it were — the realm of politics — but I took my time, almost 19 years,” he said in a recent interview with Reuters at Parliament. “For me, this is the right thing for the right time”.

What The Magazine Thinks

The Banker agrees, praising Korn for navigating Thailand’s trade-reliant economy through the financial crisis, with fiscal stimulus measures it put at more than US$61.2 billion while boosting long-term government spending on infrastructure.

“(Korn) has introduced an active and extensive reform programme that has succeeded in putting Thailand’s economic policy back on track after several years of economic paralysis and frequent government changes,” the magazine said.

What Khun Korn Chatikavanij Aspires

“What we would like to see is a much bigger share of the service sector compared to manufacturing. What’s notable over the past 10 years is that with the economic growth that Thailand has seen, the service sector share has actually shrunk a little bit. That’s unusual.”

“Some investors may not like it. But we have to protect our own environment and the future living conditions of our own citizens,” he added.

He also disagrees with manufacturers and shippers pressing Thailand to build a deep seaport on its western shore to allow exporters to ship directly to the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

Such a project would jeopardise one of Thailand’s biggest assets, he said — tourism in the southern Phuket region, home to some of the world’s most coveted beaches. He would like to see tourism expand, helping to build up the service sector.

“We shouldn’t sacrifice a very robust tourism sector in the south and put that at risk through the development of major industrial projects that would go along with that port,” he said.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is one fine man - a man who is in touch with his people and knows what is best for them.

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