My wife is a genius – comments on interview of BOT chief Dr. Prasarn

Posted: August 16, 2010 in Thailand

I was reminded today that my wife is a genius. It’s easy to forget sometimes. Her physical beauty, charm and grace make me sometimes forget everything else. But now and then I ask her opinion about something and her laser accurate wit hits right to the point.

Like today.  I was reading the front page story in The Nation newspaper, an interview of Dr. Prasarn Trairatvorakul, the new chief of the Bank of Thailand. He’s a pretty important person, being in that position. What he thinks is likely to have a big impact on banking and the economy in Thailand. So I thought I’d learn a little about him, and read the interview, and got to this quote:

He concedes populist policies are good by nature, designed to help the underprivileged because most wealth goes to entrepreneurs,  not to the workforce.

OMG. Let’s parse that – “populist policies are good” and “most wealth goes to entrepreneurs, not the workforce”. Again, OMG. Ok, let’s not panic. Maybe there was something lost in the translation to English. But he did say at the beginning of the interview that his term as BOT chief will be guided by four key “pillars”, one of which is “income distribution”. At another point in the interview he says that a coordinated government response is needed to reduce the country’s uneven distribution of wealth. So yes, he is saying what I think, that populist policies are good and those fat cat entrepreneurs are getting too much of the wealth they are creating and more should go to the “workforce” (since entrepreneurs don’t actually work I guess). If Dr. Prasarn has any influence on public policy I’m afraid Thailand is going to fall even further behind in the near future.

After reading that I was contemplating the consequences of Dr. Prasarn’s views when my wife sat down next to me. I turned to her and asked her what she thought of populist policies. “Mai ruu rueang,” she said (I don’t understand). Ok, that’s not really fair because English isn’t her first language and whenever she has deep discussions on politics or the economy it is in Thai with her Thai friends and family. So I explained that populist policies are when the government gives the voting public something for free, like a bonus check, or easy low interest loans, or a new benefit like free health care. “Oh, you mean like Thaksin did,” she said, referring to the famous programs like the so-called “30-baht” health care plan and easy loans to farmers that they can’t pay back.

“Yeah, those are populist policies,” I said. “What happens when you have populist policies like that?”

She replied, “It makes people wait.”

Now I’m sitting there trying to make sense of her answer. Even though we both speak each others language fairly well we still often have communication mishaps. I asked her to explain that and she said that people who get free stuff regularly know that they just have to wait a while for another handout to come along. They know they don’t have to work very hard, or sometimes at all, just sit around and wait, maybe join a protest if the wait becomes too long, but mostly just wait.

Brilliant, she is, my wife.

Another example of how brilliant she is: Some time ago I saw some weird comment posted on a forum by someone who was just trolling for readers’ reactions. He asked “If I eat myself, will I become twice as large, or disappear completely?” Yeah, it’s just a weird little mind game. Being sort of a jerk that I am I asked my wife that question, thinking I would get her mind twisted in a knot. Instead she promptly answered “Neither, you can only eat half yourself, so you will stay the same size.” OMG

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