Corruption costing country Bt329 bn, says UTCC survey
As much as 2.6 per cent of Thailand's gross domestic product (GDP) - or Bt329 billion - is likely to be lost to corruption this year, according to an estimate based on a survey of 2,400 people from the public and private sectors.
The corruption situation is getting worse despite higher public awareness about the problem.
People in the private sector admitted that they needed to pay more bribes to government officials and politicians to facilitate their business operations and win government contracts, the survey by the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC) has found.
Based on the UTCC's calculation, corruption in 2013 is likely to cost Bt235 billion to Bt329 billion, compared to the country's overall investment and disbursement budget of Bt2.4 trillion. The figure is based on claims by the business operators surveyed that they have to pay kickbacks equivalent to 25 to 35 per cent of their projects' cost in order to win government contracts.
Thanavath Phonvichai, director at the UTCC's Economic and Business Forecasting Centre, said yesterday that increased corruption could slow down the country's development and damage its image and competitiveness to draw more investment. The corruption value is 1.88 to 2.63 per cent of GDP this year.
In 2012, the corruption value was 1.81-2.54 per cent of GDP, or Bt210 billion to Bt294 billion.
"Corruption is getting worse because more bribes are required for projects. The survey showed that more enterprises involved in government contracts needed to pay more money to unscrupulous officials and politicians," said Thanavath.
He pointed out that projects that should be closely monitored for bribery problems are mainly the rice-pledging scheme, the Bt350-billion water management, and infrastructure development and future investment projects that are part of the annual budget of Bt2 trillion.
The survey also found that most respondents now need to pay bribes worth 25 per cent of the projects, up from 6 to 15 per cent a few years ago.
Almost 77 per cent of the respondents said they had to pay more bribes this year to win government contracts. Up to 38.5 per cent said they were asked to pay more than 25 per cent of the project value to win such contracts, 26.7 per cent had to pay 16-25 per cent of the value, 16.1 per cent had to pay 11-15 per cent, 13.3 per cent had to pay 6-10 per cent, and 5.4 per cent had to pay 1-5 per cent.
Saowanee Thairungroj, president of the UTCC, pointed out that the Thai Corruption Situation Index (CSI) had improved from 3.5 points in June last year to 3.9 points in December, suggesting a slipping in graft in the past six months.
A CSI score close to zero indicates high corruption, while a score close to 10 shows higher transparency and a lack of graft.
However, the Tolerance of Corruption Index has entered a more dangerous sign as it has gone up from 3.03 points to 3.30 points. The higher tolerance score showed that people tended to accept graft and bribery, which is a dangerous sign for future development.
The Tolerance of Corruption Index of Hong Kong - a good example of countries that seriously crack down on corruption - is about one point.
Other indices related to corruption - those measuring its seriousness, suppression efforts, and awareness and morality - have improved last year. The index on corruption seriousness was up from 3 points to 3.4, the prevention index up slightly from 4 to 4.1, the suppression index rose from 3.7 to 4.3, and the index on awareness and morality increased from 3.2 to 4.4 last month.
The UTCC's survey on corruption index is normally released twice a year, in July and January.