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Taxpayers ‘should not need to foot bills’ for agencies’ overseas trips

Taxpayers ‘should not need to foot bills’ for agencies’ overseas trips

SATURDAY, March 11, 2017

OVERSEAS trips organised by independent agencies as part of special courses are beneficial but the costs should not be borne by taxpayers, leading thinkers opined.

Gothom Arya, a Mahidol University lecturer and former election commissioner, said these extra-curricular activities mostly served people of the middle and higher classes in helping them find new connections.
“It has always been obvious yet understated about the purpose of these courses – that the attendees usually seek to join new circles that can be advantageous to them in the future,” Gothom said. “And certainly, at the same time they gain some knowledge from that course which is a good thing.”
As such, he said the courses were not completely unacceptable.
Some agencies such as King Prajadhipok’s Institute (KPI) were established specially for the courses, he added. Others, he said, should be viewed case by case.
Gothom said he was not sure such extra-curricular courses were the Election Commission’s responsibility. He said when he was at the EC, it did not provide such a service.
He said some institutions or agencies arranged courses and they were a success and other bodies followed their lead.
However, he said the EC had a mission to improve people’s understanding about democracy. It is possible the courses served that purpose, Gothom said.
Gothom believes that overseas trips are unnecessary but if undertaken, the cost should be borne by the trip organisers and not the taxpayers.
He stressed that state agencies and institutions should provide such courses only when they correspond with their missions. 
He suggested that the EC expand its provisions on education regarding democratic matters to serve those in need including at provincial level.
Ekkachai Srivilas, director of KPI’s Office of Peace and Governance, agreed with a move by the Constitution Drafting Commission to limit such programmes among state agencies, adding that they should be reserved for only educational institutions to provide.
“We have to recognise that it is not their job. And it has some complications in terms of having to allocate budgets for a mission that is not really their responsibility,” he said.
Concerning foreign trips, Ekkachai said in some areas they were beneficial. He said that besides learning from books inside a classroom, it could be a good experience for students to see real practices in the real world.
Thus, it is not completely worthless, he said. 
But most importantly, it depends on how much students can deploy what they have learned and help improve the country, the KPI scholar said.