More flexibility needed in state enterprises
"State enterprises, which include our train, bus, electricity and petrochemical sectors, are often a topic that is forgotten although they are a main factor in determining competitiveness," Dr Piyasvasti said at a forum held by Krungthep Turakij newspaper yesterday.
Thailand has 57 state enterprises holding 9 trillion baht worth of assets. Their annual revenue is 3.8 trillion baht with more than 200 billion baht in profit.Many state enterprises face delays in making key decisions due to regulations, which instead makes it easier for politicians to interfere, resulting in corruption, said Dr Piyasvasti.
Government agencies such as the National Economic and Social Development Board, the Finance Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office which oversees state enterprises need to change their mindset and give state enterprise executives some trust, he said.
"It doesn't matter whether or not the government holds more or less than 50%. State enterprises, including THAI, want flexibility in management. If decisions take too long to make, how will we be able to compete with premium airlines?" he said.
"It's a shame if [the government] doesn't see the importance of change, since it should have been done a long time ago. Why does PTT, which doesn't have to submit decisions to the cabinet, show good performance, unlike state enterprises in other sectors?" asked Dr Piyasvasti, who is also a former energy minister.
PTT Plc, the largest public enterprise in Thailand, and its energy and chemical affiliates represent nearly 40 percent of the capitalisation of the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET).
Vorapol Sokatiyanurak, director of the Nida Center for Economic Competitiveness Enhancement, echoed Dr Piyasvasti's view, saying the government should reduce operational regulations for state enterprises as much as possible if there are other mechanisms in place.
He cited SET listing as an example, which brings not only direct benefits from fund-raising, but also indirect benefits from aspects such as shareholder responsibility, account auditing and the need to reveal information. "However, it will take some time to explain to people that [listing on the SET] is not an act of selling the nation's assets," said Dr. Vorapol.
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