July 10, 2020 / 2:01 PM / a month ago

Six candidates in race to be new Thai central bank chief to steer economy in crisis

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Six candidates have applied to be the next Thai central bank governor to succeed Veerathai Santiprbhob, whose five-year term end in September, as the country combats the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new chief will face the tough task of reviving Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy which the Bank of Thailand (BOT) predicts will shrink by a record 8.1% this year.

There were two more candidates after the extended application ended on Friday, Rangson Sriworasat, chairman of the selection committee, told reporters, but he did not name the applicants.

Finance ministry sources said Sethaput Suthiwart-Narueput, who sits on the central bank’s monetary policy committee (MPC), had applied.

Sethaput is an advisor to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and holds a Ph.D. in economics from Yale University. He was not immediately reachable for comment.

Anusorn Tamajai, head of the economic research of Rangsit University, told Reuters he had applied for the job.

“But my chance is small,” he said. “Sethaput is likely to be the top candidate as he is close to the prime minister”.

According to media reports, two deputy BOT governors, Mathee Supapongse and Ronadol Numnonda, had applied earlier.

Mathee has worked at the BOT for more than three decades. He is in charge of supervising monetary stability and is an MPC member.

Ronadol, who has been at the BOT for more than 20 years, oversees financial institutions’ stability.

Media reports also said Tongjai Thanachanan, a management consultant who heads Pracharath Rak Samakkee, a social enterprise carrying out community activities, had applied.

The BOT declined to comment. Governor Veerathai did not seek a second term.

Qualified applicants will present their visions on July 21 before the committee picks two from which the finance minister will select the new governor. The appointment needs cabinet approval and the king’s endorsement, Rangson has said.

Additional reporting by Kitiphong Thaichareon; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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