Winner faces tough tests in coming years
Only well-managed cities will prosper in era of globalisationIn any race, there are winners and losers. Happiness is warranted for the winners but it may fade away if they cannot properly keep promises or address upcoming challenges. Though upset by the result, losers if learning well from their own mistakes can also rise again. That is the lessons both Pongsapat Pongcharoen and MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra and their respective political parties will have to learn.
At press time, the results were not final. Upon official appointment, no matter who wins, both have to assume the title with the realisation that Bangkok needs a leader who can satisfy city dwellers' demands as well as strengthen the city's position in the fast-changing global environment.
Unlike Chiang Mai, Phuket or Pattaya whose responsibility is to city dwellers and tourists, Bangkok is the capital city and the country's main blood veins. The range of its stakeholders is extended to cover all Thai nationals and the global business community. Though the number of official residents here is less than 15 per cent of the total population, Bangkok and its vicinity generates over 50 per cent of national income. Bangkok is also the main gateway to the Kingdom, with over 70 per cent of total visitors arriving or passing through Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Like other cities in Asia where urbanisation has quickened thanks to economic prosperity, Bangkok needs to be wise in planning and budget allocation. This is to prepare for problems associated with urban life as well as the city's future amid the globalisation era. As the first step, Bangkok is expected to play a bigger role when the Asean Economic Community takes shape in 2015. A world where the West looks East, Bangkok will grow along with other Asian cities.
In 2010, the urban share of Asia's population was still only 43 per cent, compared to 52 per cent worldwide. But the Asian Development Bank projects that by 2050 the figure for Asia will reach 63 per cent, which would be slightly under the global average at that point. Thus, Asian cities will have even higher density and, by 2025, the number of mega-cities in the region is expected to increase to 21 from a global total of 37.
Amid this trend, only well-managed cities will draw resources from around the globe in a sustainable way. Bigger cities are naturally haunted by challenges. While no two cities are the same, many Asian cities face common challenges, including a sharp increase in registered vehicles, rising levels of industrial production, a reliance on coal-fired power plants, and increasing carbon emission. Bangkok and other Asian cities are encouraged to become greener and prepare for climate change, as without preparation, they are prone to disasters like the flood that Bangkok experienced in 2011 which left huge economic costs in the capital as well as the entire country.
It is up to the next Bangkok governor race to design the real action plans for the next four years. The plans must also accommodate future plans for the big city. The new governor should also bear in mind that wrong policies could derail the real potential of the capital in the age of urbanisation and inter-connectedness.