Published on March 10, 2008
Imagine how differently the critics would have reacted if Samak had proposed a vigorous pursuit of the plan to turn Thailand into the world's kitchen.
But it was not to be. Last week, Samak's initiative to build casinos in Thailand received a negative response from critics who cited the social hardships that come with gambling-related activities.
Samak received a positive response when he mooted the plan to revive the two- and three-digit lotteries to bring underground money into the system. But hey, the public seemed to think that the casinos are different.
Samak's initiative sounds like a lip-synched version of deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's previous plan to open large gambling and entertainment complexes similar to those in Las Vegas. Samak might have been inspired by his visit to Cambodia. Several Thai gamblers keep flocking back to a strip of casinos in Poipet.
Samak has no record of having a gambling habit. In spite of his ear-bashing history with the press, Samak is known to be a family man who loves cooking with his "Tasting and whining" cooking show.
In fact, Samak's economic theories from the kitchen floor have often been right because they were proven by his own experience. Years ago, he was asked by the press how to survive rising inflation. Instead of suggesting the Energy Ministry freeze oil prices, Samak offered this valuable advice: "Cook chicken bone soup. It's good for the whole family. It's healthy and cheap." Our verdict: Samak may like the latest James Bond flick "Casino Royale", but he's more suitable as an elderly version of Jamie Oliver.
Sorry for showing no mercy for Commerce Minister Mingkwan Sangsuwan, even though this hard-working minister passed out during an economic forum.
One month has passed and Finance Minister Surapong Suebwonglee has scored points among the general public by announcing his plan to boost consumer consumption.
Mingkwan, on the other hand, wasted his energy controlling pork prices. From Samak's economic theory above, he should know that chicken bones could be used as a substitution without having to distort market prices.
For your information, when Samak initially formed his government, those in the market bet on who would become economic czar: Surapong or Mingkwan.
But now Thaksin is back and you know who's who. In short, Surapong now stands a better chance because he's closer to Thaksin.
But the battle between Surapong and Mingkwan for the title of economic czar of the Samak government is not over yet, as Mingkwan is not a man who can be overlooked easily. Maybe he should give less weight to immediate political pressure and focus on commerce policies that would have a long-lasting impact, such as the fair-trade rules and intellectual-property rights.