Monday, November 16, 2009

Thaksin Gives First Economic Lecture in Cambodia

BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA

About 300 people, including Cambodian government officials and businessmen, gathered in Phnom Penh to attend a conference on “Cambodia and the World After the Financial Crisis” on November 12.

The conference was organized by the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the Supreme National Economic Council and featured a lecture by former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra after he was appointed by royal decree as Personal Advisor to Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen and Economic Advisor to the Royal Government of Cambodia on November 4.

The fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin discussed his own visions and experiences relating to growth and developments of the world economy and its challenges before and after the global crisis erupted in Cambodia. He also described his global work experience developing the economic and financial sectors and his plans to make key recommendations to the Cambodian government.

Commenting on Cambodia’s economic context, Thaksin recommended that after the financial crisis, Cambodia should focus on four main sectors and work in promoting tourism, agriculture, rural development, and infrastructure, as well as supporting business regrowth and reforms in the legal system needed to gain the support of investors and businessmen.

“To recover Cambodia’s economy and finances, I think that Cambodia now should focus on and promote four important sectors including tourism, agriculture, rural development and natural resources in generating work and income for the Cambodian people,” he said at the conference. “I advise that the four countries, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos, should work together to promote tourism, but the individual countries must have their own plans to improve their own regulatory infrastructures to attract the tourism.”

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon, Minister of Economy and Finance and Honorary Chairman of the Supreme National Economic Council, said Thanksin was the first Thai Prime Minister to complete a full term in office, and his leadership is generally agreed to have been one of the most distinctive in the country’s modern history.

Thaksin initiated many eye-catching policies that distinguished him from his predecessors, said Keat Chhon, adding that they affected the economy, public health, education, energy, social order, drug suppression, and international relations. He also gained re-election victories.

“Thaksin’s most effective policies were reducing rural poverty and the introduction of universal healthcare, allowing him to galvanize the vast and largely untapped support base of the rural poor,” he said during his opening remarks of the economic conference.

The Deputy Prime Minister continued to say that Thaksin’s government designed its policies to appeal to the rural majority, initiating programs like locally-managed microcredit development funds, low-interest agricultural loans, direct injections of cash into village development funds (the SLM scheme), infrastructure development, and the One Tambon One Product (OTOP) rural, small and medium enterprise development programs.

“Thaksinomics,” his so-called economic policies, helped accelerate Thailand’s economic recovery from the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis and substantially reduce poverty, he said, adding that Thailand repaid its debts to the IMF 2 years ahead of schedule. More importantly, Thaksin was an outspoken regional leader who had devoted his tireless efforts to the causes of many regional and sub-regional initiatives such as ASEAN, GMS and ACMECS.

“Cambodia is thankful to the former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for his exemplary role in helping bridge the gaps among ASEAN member countries where Cambodia benefited from support of infrastructure and other capacity building projects,” he said.

In Channy, President and CEO of the ACELEDA Bank Plc, who attended the Thaksin Lecture Conference, appreciated former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s business experience and talents. He said that Thaksin Shinawatra has his own clear business experiences and skills in economic analysis. He has also succeeded with his own business in Thailand.

“I think that Thaksin has great working experience and skills. He not only has his higher knowledge but also the experience and success of his own business. I think that he can help us in developing our country in the future,” he told The Southeast Asia Weekly after the conference.

Dr. Nang Sothy, President of the Thy Holding Group Co., LDT, also attended the conference and appreciated Thaksin’s business experience.

“As a businessman, I never paid much attention to the politicians like my leaders or other leaders and was concerned on my business development and how I could work to improve and develop my business in Cambodia,” he said. “I really appreciate former Prime Minister Thaksin Sinawatra’s recommendations. I wish he will spare his time to support us. We really trust on him to help Cambodian on recommendations to develop the economy.”

Thaksin, who served as Thai Prime Minister from 2001 to 2006 before being toppled in a bloodless coup, faces a two-year jail sentence in Thailand for abuse of power and corruption. He has been living in self-imposed exile, mostly in Dubai, since August 2008.
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