* Predee replaces Uttama Savanayana
* New finance minister faces economy in crisis
* Policy continuity, new stimulus measures needed – analysts (Adds detail, analysts’ comments, context)
By Orathai Sriring and Satawasin Staporncharnchai
BANGKOK, Aug 6 (Reuters) – Thailand’s king has approved veteran banking executive Predee Daochai as new finance minister, the official Royal Gazette said, handing him the task of navigating Southeast Asia’s worst performing economy through the coronavirus pandemic.
Predee, 61, former co-president of Kasikornbank and chairman of the Thai Bankers’ Association, had been widely tipped to replace Uttama Savanayana who resigned last month along with other ministers in a major economic team shake-up.
Predee had worked for Kasikornbank for 38 years and graduated with law degrees from Thammasat University and a master’s degree in law from the University of Illinois.
The departure of Uttama and Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, who headed the economic team, comes at a critical time for the economy which the central bank predicts will shrink by a record 8.1% this year and adds to uncertainty over policymaking as Thailand struggles with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Analysts want to see policy continuity and new measures to boost the economy in the short and long term, including the development of the Eastern Economic Corridor(EEC), an ambitious connectivity and development project launched by the then military government to boost Thailand’s industrial east.
“The market does not look at who but what policy will be announced,” said Naris Sathapholdeja, head of TMB Analytics.
“What the new finance minister needs to do is to retain jobs and support smaller businesses,” he added.
Tim Leelahaphan, economist at Standard Chartered Bank, said “We are paying special attention on who will serve as head of the economic team” as measures such as the EEC and the progress of various other mega projects were started under Somkid and it remains to be seen whether the projects would be continued.
Thailand has also appointed a new central bank governor, Sethaput Suthiwart-Narueput, an economic advisor to the prime minister, who will take over from Veerathai Santiprabhob for a five-year term in October. (Reporting by Orathai Sriring, Satawasin Staporncharnchai and Panu Wongcha-um Editing by Ed Davies)