Hope for Swift Election to Put Uncertainties Behind: Thai PM
Thailand's stock market, has gone from being one of the best performers in Asia last year to a laggard in 2011. The market has fallen 7 percent since early May on worries national elections on July 3rd will usher in opposition rule and heighten political uncertainty.
But Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told CNBC the country is anxious to have a swift election to put the doubts behind it.
"Everybody is working towards the elections, a couple of month ago, people had doubts, now it’s clear that Thailand will have elections and Thai people will decide and we hope after the third of July, the process of government formation will be very swift," he said on the sidelines of the East Asia World Economic Forum meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Abhisit faces a tough electoral challenge against former premier Thaksin Shinawatra's allies in the Puea Thai party.
Thaksin's sister Yingluck Shinawatra is leading a number of polls. If Puea Thai win they are likely to announce an amnesty for Thaksin, who was ousted in a coup in 2008, paving his return to Thailand.
Vulnerable to Downturn
It's not just the election that's worrying foreign investors. Thailand has an exports-to-GDP ratio of 60 percent, making it extremely vulnerable to a global slowdown. That's one reason why the government was working to strengthen the domestic economy, the Prime Minister said.
"One of the key proposal we are making, when we talk about increasing the minimum wage, the revival of the agriculture sector to make sure our farmers incomes [are] enhanced, is to make sure also that there is a strong domestic economy."
Thailand's baht has also been weakening versus the dollar in May after strengthening for most of last year. Abhisit signaled that he was comfortable with the currency at the current levels.
"One of the things we are trying to encourage is to ask our exporters and our industries to take this opportunity to improve their competitiveness,” he said. “It’s a good time to import new technology, new machinery, to upgrade their production."