March 11, 2014 00:00 By Erich Parpart, Pichaya Changs
Lack of trust, poor enforcement highlighted
Public sector corruption was a major problem last year, with the “Corruption Situation Index” (CSI) in December showing that 75 per cent of those polled saying it had got worse. That was up 12 percentage points from 2012. This trend needs to be rectified immediately through pressure from the whole community, social and business groups said.
Speaking at a seminar sponsored by the Thailand Development Research Institute yesterday, Deunden Nikomborirak, the TDRI’s research director for economic governance, said: “The problem of corruption has been escalating since 2010 because Thais have lost their trust in politicians, and it is the most problematic factor for doing business in Thailand.”
Sauwanee Thairungroj, president of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC), which compiled the CSI, said 75 per cent of respondents believed that the current problem of corruption was worse than a year earlier, when the figure was 63 per cent.
The CSI’s sample of 2,400 people consisted 51.9 per cent of ordinary citizens, 24.4 per cent civil servants and 23.6 per cent business operators.
Civil servants and politicians are the main sources of corruption, according to poll results from the UTCC and the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA).
The CSI found that 15.1 per cent of respondents believed that lack of enforcement and loopholes within the regulations were allowing rampant corruption in the public sector, usually in the form of “using political positions for personal benefit” (15 per cent), bribery (14.8 per cent), corrupted policy (12.2 per cent) and nepotism and cronyism (12.2 per cent).
A NIDA poll of 1,249 individuals in 2013 also found that lack of enforcement (45.88 per cent) and loopholes within the law (39.69 per cent) were the main factors worsening corruption.
Suvicha Pouaree, director of the NIDA poll, said other surveys it had conducted last year also found that the majority of people believed that government mega-projects were most prone to corruption because of the amount of money involved.
The polls showed that a majority believed that the planned Bt2-trillion infrastructure (74.78 per cent) and water-management (82.93 per cent) programmes would be prone to corruption. However, only a minority (31.3 per cent) believed that the late payments to farmers in the rice-pledging scheme were also due to graft.
Yet another survey, this one by the Thai Institute of Directors (IOD) with a sample size of 1,066 company directors, managers and chief executives, found that 75 per cent of business operators believed that corruption had been on the rise in the past two years, and 93 per cent believed that the problem was at the high to highest level. However, 38 per cent still thought the problem of corruption could still be solved.
The survey found that the communications (15 per cent), energy (14), agriculture (11), real estate (10), and construction sectors (9 per cent) were most prone to corruption.
Like the UTCC and NIDA polls, the IOD survey also found that lack of enforcement and transparency were the main factors that allow corruption to continue to exist.
In the IOD survey, 93 per cent of business operators said corruption was hampering their ability to do business in the private sector, and 68 per cent said the problem was affecting their businesses severely. Some 55 per cent said the biggest problem was rising operating costs and 24 per cent said they would have to increase the prices of their products and services because of corruption.
A large majority (84 per cent) of business leaders told the IOD poll that they believed the country’s economy would grow substantially if corruption were wiped out, while 70 per cent believed the private sector was crucial for the prevention of corruption.
Thanee Chaiwat, an economic professor at Chulalongkorn University, said “society was ready to get rid of corruption and the government needed to facilitate it”, while Suvicha said: “The government is hopeless, and it is up to society and the private sector to fight against corrupt politicians.”
Prasong Lertratwisuth, executive director of the Isra Institute, said a government procurement website had been set up some time ago but it provided little information. Despite the requirement of Anti-Corruption Act that government agencies show their standard bidding prices on the website, he said, the Prime Minister’s Office was among the first agencies not to follow the rule, since it had not reported its expenses on promotional events for the government’s Bt2-trillion baht investment project.
“The [National Anti-Corruption Commission] should take action against the Office of the Prime Minister,” he said.
Prasong also urged the Thai Bankers’ Association to ask its members to boycott borrowers who did not comply with transparency codes as stipulated by the private-sector Anti-Corruption Network.