Coalition Politics and Reform Dynamics in Thailand
This article provides an explanation for Thailand’s long-term policymaking patterns from 1980 to 2011, with particular reference to macroeconomic and industrial policies. It develops a typology of reform orientations in Thailand, conditioned by government type (strong or fragmented) and ruling-coalition type (unelected or elected elites). When under strong leadership, reform was substantively implemented; its orientation was forged into fiscal tightening and “exclusive industrial policy” when ruled by unelected elites (Prem, Anand, and Surayud), but into an expansionary budget and “inclusive industrial policy” when ruled by elected elites (Chatichai and Thaksin). In contrast, when under multi-party governments, political leaders were less capable of pursuing meaningful reform and ended up with either internationally dominant discourses (Chuan and Abhisit) or pork-barrel projects (Banharn and Chavalit). It is further argued that government type hinges upon constitutional design while the two-elite struggle has resulted from the political turmoil of the prior decade. The assessment of reform outcomes requires a rethinking of the relationship between inflation, macroeconomic stability, and growth; and of institutional prerequisites for industrial policymaking. Policy suggestions entail constitutional redesign and the redressing of macroeconomic and industrial balance.
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