Lessons from court veto of mega-project loan

your say March 15, 2014 00:00

Like Premier Yingluck and Federation of Thai Industries vice-chairman Kriengkrai Thiennukul, I rue the many months lost in getting started on infrastructure mega-projects. However, I applaud the court's verdict, because the veto was in accordance with the

We haven’t had a large infrastructure project for 15 years, and this despite Thai logistics costs running as high as 15.2 per cent of GDP, placing us at a major disadvantage vis-a-vis our competitors, where logistics are only 8-9 per cent of GDP. So an overhaul is badly needed. What should we learn from Yingluck’s fiasco?
First, be transparent. Many projects were proposed without in-depth feasibility studies, even though they cost billions. Do we really need a state-of-the-art high-speed rail system when we cannot safely manage a creaky single-rail system? We should demand that Yingluck put all the studies on the Internet, where we taxpayers can see what we’re getting.
Second, decentralise, and promote civil society and freedom of expression. Get the regions and professional associations involved and have them debate the pros and cons of mega-projects that would affect them.
Third, practise good governance (the Pheu Thai MP who used his colleagues’ ID cards to cast votes for them should have been drummed out of the party – but has he?) We should ensure that the government doesn’t seek to bypass checks and balances, such as parliamentary scrutiny, especially when polls show that Thailand has become more corrupt under Pheu Thai.
Fourth, we should practise political toleration and listen to the opposition both inside and outside Parliament. Rather than using its majority to railroad a bill through, Pheu Thai must show that what it proposes is better for the public than what the Democrats want. Make the politicians of all parties earn your vote every day.
Do the above and we’ll have put former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun’s “7 Pillars of Sustainable Democracy” into action – and benefited the nation as a whole, rather than just vested interests.
Burin Kantabutra