BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s recently appointed finance minister, Predee Daochai, has resigned as the government struggles to pull Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy out of a slump caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The banking veteran took office just last month as Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha shook up his economic team to address the drop in demand and the devastation suffered by the country’s vital tourist industry.
Predee, 61, did not respond to telephone calls from Reuters, and it was not immediately known why he resigned. Thai media said he wanted to quit for health reasons.
His resignation was confirmed by an official announcement in the country’s Royal Gazette.
Earlier news that Predee had proffered his resignation prompted the stock market to fall as much as 0.9% <.SETI>, but it had recovered by the close to stand less than 0.4% down.
Predee’s departure would created uncertainty in policy-making as the government rolls out billions of dollars of stimulus to aid the economy through the pandemic.
“Therefore, this event is rather a major disappointment,” said Kobsidthi Silpachai, head of capital markets research of Kasikornbank. Uncertainty over who will be finance minister would undercut private-sector confidence, he said, and could raise concerns over political stability.
The Thai economy could shrink by a record 8.5% this year, according to the finance ministry.
“We were hoping the minister would help with soft loan problems, but there may be no chance now,” said Chairat Triratanajaraspon, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand.
Predee was co-president Kasikornbank <KBANK.BK> before leaving the lender to join the cabinet.
Though Thailand has so far reported only 3,417 coronavirus infections and 58 deaths from COVID-19 and has lifted most restrictions, its economy has been hit badly, in particular tourism.
Thailand is forecast to record less than a fifth of last year’s record 39.8 million visitors, whose spending made up about 11.4% of GDP.
(Reporting by Orathai Sriring, Panu Wongcha-um, Kay Johnson, Chayut Setboonsarng and Patpicha Tanakasempipat; editing by Martin Petty, Simon Cameron-Moore and Larry King)