August 19, 2015 / 7:06 AM / 4 years ago

Thai PM says former finance minister Somkid to lead new economic team

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha announced on Wednesday that former finance minister Somkid Jatusripitak would be in charge of spurring economic growth in a reshuffled cabinet, as the military-government seeks to spur stumbling domestic demand.

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha answers questions from journalists after a cabinet meeting at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, August 18, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy has consistently missed government targets since Prayuth led an army coup in May 2014 to end months of street protests, with exports and domestic demand stubbornly sluggish.

A weak economy could undermine support for the government as frustration with restrictions on political activity simmers, particularly among younger voters and supporters of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whose government was ousted in

2014.

Somkid, a 62-year-old U.S.-educated former marketing executive, currently is an economic adviser to the National Council for Peace and Order, as the junta has called itself since the coup.

He also served as deputy prime minister and commerce minister under the government of deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck’s brother, and was a key proponent of the populist policies known as “Thaksinomics”.

Prayuth said more than 10 cabinet positions had been “adjusted”.

“Several people have been made advisers and will still work with me,” he said. “I believe the new cabinet will have to work harder than the previous one because I will get them to look at reforms.”

On Tuesday, Prayuth said he had submitted the list of new cabinet members to the king for approval.

Somkid will replace Deputy Prime Minister Pridiyathorn Devakula as head of the team.

“I have shifted Pridiyathorn to be an adviser and let Somkid take over instead. Somkid has helped me from the start, so there is not a problem,” Prayuth told reporters.

A government source said Apisak Tantivorawong, former president of state-owned Krung Thai Bank, would become finance minister, replacing Sommai Phasee.

Sommai said on Wednesday that he was not upset at being replaced.

“My duty is over” and the new cabinet would take over the work of stimulating the economy, he said.

The state planning agency on Monday cut its 2015 economic growth forecast again to 2.7-3.2 percent from 3.0-4.0 percent. Many economists believe even the new forecast is still too optimistic. Growth last year was 0.9 percent.

The economy grew just 0.4 percent in April-June from the previous quarter, with tourism the key driver. A bomb blast in Bangkok on Monday, which killed 22 people, nearly half of them foreigners, has struck a further blow to the economy.

Addtional reporting by Kitiphong Thaichareon; Writing by Orathai Sriring; Editing by Nick Macfie

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