Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Political woes cloud outlook _ US professor


Political woes cloud outlook _ US professor


Political uncertainties stemming frome Dec 23 election are among major risks facing Thailandis yearat have weakened investor confidence, a leading US professor and consultant said yesterday.

Professor Paul Tiffany frome Wharton School ofe University of Pennsylvania said political risks are ''very significant'' following last month's poll.

''Businesspeople are facing issues of political, social and economic changes in Thailand,'' Prof Tiffany said at a conference on competitiveness in Bangkok.

''Investors are puzzled aboute final Dec 23 poll results and what's going to happen (ousted premier) Thaksin (Shinawatra) comes back on Valentine's Day or in April,'' he added.

The Election Commission has yet to certify all winners ofe election,e kingdom's first sincee bloodless coup in September 2006at topplede twice-elected Thaksin.

Thaksin's wife Khunying Potjaman returned to Thailand yesterday to face charges filed bye Assets Scrutiny Committee (ASC),e anti-corruption panel named bye junta. Mr Thaksin himself has lived in exile sincee coup.

''Uncertainty abounds with a perceptionatere would be another revolution in Thailand,'' said Prof Tiffany.

Investors basically want stability, he said. They are eager to see whate new cabinet looks like.

''Whethere new government is likely to be corrupted or very transparent, investors want to know soey can adjust to it,'' he added.

Prof Tiffany also said investor confidence dropped due to high risks facing bothe local and international economies in 2008, including baht appreciation, surging oil prices ande US economic slowdown.

''The baht will appreciate further in 2008, whilee US economy struggles with a recession. These factors are going to cause problems for exports, which account for morean 60 percent ofe Thai economy,'' he said.

The Wharton professor also pointed outate continued insurgency in Thailand's Muslim-majority southern region has hurte country's outlook.

Morean 2,800 people have been killed ine insurgencyat erupted in January 2004.

In addition, Prof Tiffany said Thailand still trailed its regional competitors in technology adoption and education.

''The region has moved ahead fasteran Thailand in technology adoption, while Thailand lagse region in educational performance,'' he said.

''There is a huge room for improvement. It is going to take a big investment in education Thailand wants to advance.''

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