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Needed - a watchdog to clamp down on populism

Regardless of how the political stand-off ends, one critical element of reform has to be dealt with vigorously: how to stop the widespread corruption in Thailand.

Just how bad is the problem? According to Transparency International's 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index, Thailand ranked 102nd out of 175 countries. It has slipped from 88th in 2012. Interestingly, Thailand ranked 61st in 2001, the year Thaksin Shinawatra first became prime minister.

In the past we had several watchdogs overseeing elections, but we have never had one that screened political campaigns to make sure no populist policies were proffered that might harm the country in the long run - like the rice-pledging programme.

With such a watchdog in place, all parties contesting an election would have to submit for review any proposed campaign policies that could potentially and significantly burden the country's finances. The plans should be scrutinised in a manner similar to any project's feasibility study to analyse the costs and benefits, funding schemes, risk management and exit strategies, among other factors.

Hopefully, this should help prevent corrupt politicians from using harmful populist policies to attract votes.

Anan Pakvasa

Bangkok


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