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Thai Junta tries to boost governance in state firms

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Thailand is seeking to set up an investment holding company next year for government shareholdings, part of a wider effort to improve the performance of state-controlled enterprises.

A law to boost the governance of such firms and enable the creation of the holding company may be enacted by March, according to Ekniti Nitithanprapas, the director general of the State Enterprise Policy Office.

“We’d like the holding company to work in an efficient way like Temasek or Khazanah,” Ekniti said in an interview in Bangkok on Wednesday, referring respectively to Singapore’s state-owned investment firm Temasek Holdings Pte and Malaysia’s sovereign fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd.

State enterprises are planning 446 billion baht ($12.5 billion) of investment in 2017, according to the policy office. That’s equivalent to about 3 percent of Thailand’s gross domestic product, underlining the importance of ensuring the companies are managed well.

The new law is supposed to create a policy committee and a master plan for the sector, as well as boost transparency, formalize the way directors are appointed and evaluate corporate performance.

“This reform is crucial for long-term economic development,” said Santitarn Sathirathai, head of emerging Asia economics at Credit Suisse Group AG in Singapore.

“Ministries are in charge of state enterprises and often wear too many hats as shareholders, rule setters and referees, which sometimes breeds conflict of interest and inefficiencies.”

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