Thaksin Shinawatra - From CEO to Head of State

New ideas, less paper, more action. This seems to be the rallying cry for newly-elected Prime Minister Dr Thaksin Shinawatra, who single-handedly seeks to put Thailand into the forefront of the IT industry.

New ideas, less paper, more action.

This seems to be the rallying cry for newly-elected Prime Minister Dr Thaksin Shinawatra, who single-handedly seeks to put Thailand into the forefront of the IT industry.

In his first cabinet meeting, Dr Thaksin told the Education Ministry to provide computers to 300 state-run secondary schools which do not have computers within two years, raising the computer-to-student ratio in the 2,600 state-run schools from 1:40 to 1:20. Teachers will be given special tuition in English and computer skills.

This is in line with past years’ IT budgets where the top five procurement agencies are University Affairs, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Transportation and Communications and the Ministry of Interior. Deepening the base of IT education across the nation will augur well for Thailand’s income-generating engines of the future.

Also in the pipeline is the setting up of a centralized National Information Bureau, which will bring together state agency databases for the first time, covering state agencies involved in information technology including the National Statistical Office and the National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre.

"The network will enable state agencies to provide a one-stop service. For example, people can even have their passports made at district offices," said Vuthipong Pongsuwan, a government official.

The 52-year old Prime Minister has vowed that cabinet meetings will use less paper and more display panels. The introduction of the two panels - a scrutiny panel and a strategic panel – plus the storing of record details on compact discs instead of paper is expected to slash the budget for cabinet meetings to 40,000 baht (US$890) from 180,000 baht (US$4,000) per day. Paper will be reduced to 40 reams from 240 reams a day, and documents will be prepared in six hours instead of 20 hours. As a result, several ministers have indicated their interest in attending computer training courses to facilitate the change.

Undoubtedly, he is applying the successful corporate formula that he had used with Shin Corporation, the company he and his wife, Potjaman, founded in 1983 by establishing Shinawatra Computer Service and Investment Co., Ltd. with a registered capital of 20 million baht (US$459,400) to supply, lease and maintain IBM mini and mainframe computers. That has grown to a total revenue of 16,388 million baht (US$376.4 million) for the full year 1999, and a net income of 9,387 million baht (US$215.6 million).

"The network will enable state agencies to provide a one-stop service. For example, people can even have their passports made at district offices."

In the recent election, the Thai people has voted Thaksin in head the cabinet even though he was being investigated for failing to declare transfers of millions of dollars to meet a 5% shareholding limit imposed on cabinet ministers by the 1997 constitution. He has admitted that he has no intention to hide his assets but "it is not easy to keep track of the 67 companies that I own." Anyway, it’s not the assets acquired before office that should be questioned, but those during office.

From running 67 companies to feeding 70 million people, a lot more action is expected from Dr Thaksin, the CEO who became the Prime Minister of Thailand. - Lim Fung Meng, ZDNet Asia