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NESDC chief Sanit sets out steps for success amid upgrade

Jul 25. 2019
Dr Sanit Aksornkaew/Photo by NESDC
Dr Sanit Aksornkaew/Photo by NESDC
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By The Nation

The National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC) is undergoing a series of transformations aimed at keeping the organisation at the forefront of Thailand’s economic and social development.

Driving the changes is the announcement of the National Economic and Social Development Council Act B.E. 2561 (2018) to replace the old version that had been used for 40 years. This new act prompts the NESDC to appoint a new board of directors, chaired by Professor Dr Sanit Aksornkaew, a former board member and also a member of the Royal Institute who has over 10 years’ experience in academic circles.

As the new president, Sanit revealed that NESDC was in dire need of transformation as it now has a wider scope of mission.

“The 2017 constitution dictates that we must have a national strategic plan that promotes the country’s reformation,” he said. “And NESDC was appointed with the task to drive the plan forward and evaluate the results. We have to coordinate with both government and private sectors to ensure the mission’s success.”

This primary mission - combined with existing tasks undertaken by NESDC such as monitoring the economic and social development status, approving investment plans of state enterprises and other turnkey projects of the government – has prompted the NESDC to appoint a new set of board members. Required are 18 experts qualified in their fields: economic, social, public health, technology, environment, business, and community development. The present board also comprises of directors appointed by government agencies at permanent-secretary level to work with these experts in respective fields.

"Thai people’s expectation ofs NESDC is rather high, as we are responsible for both economic and social aspects of the country. To drive the NESDC forward is like driving a vehicle. We need a working and well-maintained car along with an efficient driver with strong knowledge of the route and environment, to transport all passengers to the destination safely. And that’s what we are trying to achieve here at NESDC,” he said.

Sanit unveiled his plan to drive the council forward in seven steps:

1. Appoint groups of sub-committees to facilitate the panel of experts in their missions. Reporting to assistant the NESDC secretary, these sub-committees can be divided by their areas of focus into 7 groups: 1) competitive enhancement, 2) social development, 3) disparity reduction, 4) eco-friendly development, 5) balancing and development of public safety and administration systems, 6) consideration of state enterprises’ investment budget, and 7) economic monitoring. Furthermore, the NESDC will appoint special committees to work on specific aspects that are crucial to the country’s development, such as investment screening, infrastructure development, SMEs promotion, or economic restructuring. These special committees will be supervised by the board members and will work together with assistant NESDC secretary.

2. Assign each mission to personnel in corresponding line of work, for example, social-, national strategy-, regional-, economic-, and management-related. Each line of work must be able to work independently but remain under the same direction to ensure a seamless cooperation throughout the organization.

3. Drive the NESDC forward with knowledge and innovations. To achieve this, the council has established the Information and Communication Technology Centre to ensure a smooth flow of information and comprehensive distribution of useful data to people in all areas of Thailand.

4. Coordinate with internal and external parties at all levels, be they the public, government, or business sectors to build a mutual understanding and tackle the problems in timely fashion.

5. Establish a strong network with both domestic and foreign partners to strengthen the workforce and promote collaboration at regional and international levels.

6. Prioritise the missions based on their urgency and importance as suggested by the seven sub-committees mentioned above. “For example, at present we are focusing on tackling drought problems, so we gather necessary data to formulate suitable remedy measures for people in affected areas as soon as possible,” Sanit said.

7. Speculate future changes based on trends and information at hand and inform people to be ready for either opportunities or crises, along with preparing strategic plans for upcoming challenges.

“These 7 steps require serious and continuous implementation to achieve the desired results. We also need to put an effective monitoring and evaluation mechanism in place to make sure that we are moving forward on the right path,” Sanit said.

As for the consideration of investment budget in mega projects of the government and state enterprises, the NESDC will focus on public benefit as highest priority. Each approved project must not affect the livelihood of local people or pose a serious threat to the environmental and social dimensions. The NESDC will make sure that every affected party is fairly and adequately compensated and all investment budgets are handled with full transparency, Sanit said.

“I am not concerned that the political climate will affect the consideration of project investments, as each of NESDC board members is highly qualified and our consideration process is fully transparent and verifiable. Moreover, the society is becoming more cautious about shady operations nowadays as corrupted politicians are often publicly exposed via social media. Hopefully this will help shaping a new era of politics where politicians have better public consciousness,” Sanit said.

Another important mission that NESDC is embarking on is to establish Thailand’s first think tank, a reservoir of knowledge and information that are vital to the country’s development. “The first step of this mission is to gather complete, correct and up-to-date information as much as possible, and the NESDC is doing so by establishing the Public Policy and Development Research Institute, which was approved by the Cabinet for the budget of Bt1 billion for 5 years plan (2019-2022). Meanwhile, the institute’ directors and executives were already appointed,” Sanit said

“The Public Policy and Development Research Institute will source and store research information from internal and external origins. Internal data will come from work experience of the NESDC’s sub-committees while external information will be gathered by private sectors and educational institutes, both domestic and international who are partners of the NESDC. A comprehensive knowledge distribution channel will be devised to deliver vital information to target groups of different socio-economic status and occupations to ensure equality in learning opportunity.”

Meanwhile, NESDC is also promoting the gathering of knowledge from first-hand experience by sending its board members to observe the operations of several projects on site, such as royal initiative and sufficiency economy projects, and the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC).

“It is imperative for us to go on-site and monitor the progress of these projects closely,” he said. “Different viewpoints will give us a better understanding of each aspect, enabling us to make informed decisions that eventually benefit the development of the country.”

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