Corruption still a major blot of the Thai economic landscape


Corruption still a major blot of the Thai economic landscape

A lot of talk in recent years by politicians and officials from all sides of the political divide about curbing rampant corruption in the country has effectively been just that, talk, according to a recent survey undertaken by the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC).

This finding corresponds with that of the Berlin-based Transparency International whose 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index saw Thailand drop from 88th place to 102nd out of 177 countries monitored.

In the UTCC survey, called the Corruption Situation Index (CSI) it was discovered that when it comes to state-funded projects the kickbacks paid by businesses to politicians and state officials is between 25 and 35 percent of the total value of the project.

In a practical sense this equated to between 240 and 330 billion baht out of the government’s 2.4 trillion baht investment and procurement budget for 2013.

The UTCC suggested if the corruption amount is assessed at the high level of 35 percent, this would mean Thailand’s overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would be 2.63 percent less than it should be. This is a massive loss when considered what significant improvements could be made with that kind of money in the vital education and health sectors.

The UTCC survey covered a substantial 2,400 respondents operating in the business and government sectors and the overall score was 39 points. The CSI rates corruption from 0 to 100 with the higher the score the less the corruption, so a rank of 39 is what the UTCC terms ‘critical’, and, notably, is down from 41 in June 2013. This means corruption became worse over the last six months of last year.

The chief spokesman for the UTCC said there was evidence the level of graft was even higher in certain northern provinces with a whopping 50 percent being paid out ‘under the table’ for some investment projects.

The UTCC spokesman was quoted as saying, “Corruption is now widespread both in government agencies and local administration organisations.” He noted that politicians remained the major source of corruption.

Naturally enough, when asked the best way to tackle corruption, respondents suggested beginning with rooting out corrupt politicians, followed by state officials.

The UTCC says there is a desperate need to fast-track legislative reform and impose harsher penalties for those found to be corrupt. The problem, of course, is that if the legislators are the very ones engaged in the worst of the excesses then there is very little political will to get their noses out of the public trough for the long-term benefit of the nation. This is especially true with the huge monies that could potentially be skimmed from the proposed two trillion baht infrastructure project.