Ex-IMF economist named Bank of Thailand governor

Thailand's Central Bank's outgoing Governor Prasarn Trairatvorakul gestures during an interview.
Thailand's Central Bank's outgoing Governor Prasarn Trairatvorakul gestures during an interview. PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK • Dr Veerathai Santiprabhob, a former economist at the International Monetary Fund, has been named the new governor at the Bank of Thailand.

Dr Veerathai, 45, will take charge from Oct 1 after Mr Prasarn Trairatvorakul steps down, ending a five-year term, on Sept 30.

Finance Minister Sommai Phasee's choice received Cabinet approval yesterday though it a formal endorsement is required from the king, Minister of Justice Paiboon Koomchaya said.

The new governor will grapple with falling exports and deflation in an economy that grew at the slowest pace in four years in 2014, with policy space limited by the prospect of higher United States interest rates and diminished fire power, following two surprise rate cuts this year.

The delay of elections until next year by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has also added to the uncertainty.

The decision to appoint the central bank's youngest leader in four decades will be welcomed by investors, said executive vice-president Pakorn Peetathawatchai of the Stock Exchange of Thailand, who worked with Dr Veerathai at the Stock Exchange of Thailand.

"His younger age means he's a very good listener," he added. "He is willing to learn from other people, but whenever it was a time for decisions and leadership, he was always quick and decisive in making those decisions if they were right and appropriate."

Dr Veerathai was chosen from a shortlist that included Dr Supavud Saicheua, an adviser to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and Bank of Thailand Deputy governors Paiboon Kittisrikangwan and Tongurai Limpiti.

Dr Veerathai has a doctorate in economics from Harvard University and was an Eisenhower Fellow in 2013.

He returned to Thailand to lead the Policy Research Institute of the Ministry of Finance during the Asian financial crisis, and is credited with driving the development of the country's capital markets and the integration of South-east Asian capital markets during his tenure as chief strategy officer at the Thai stock exchange.

He is familiar with some of the challenges of the role, through his position on the central bank's seven-member Monetary Policy Committee, which sets the Bank of Thailand's benchmark interest rate. The committee voted unanimously last month to keep the key rate at 1.5 per cent after two consecutive cuts, and said borrowing costs were already supporting a gradual economic recovery.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2015, with the headline 'Ex-IMF economist named Bank of Thailand governor'. Print Edition | Subscribe