Wednesday, 30th January 2013
CORRUPTION SATURATES ASIA STIFLING ECONOMIC GROWTH – When it comes to Asia, with countries such as China, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines these are the most corrupt countries in the world.
I often hear the Thai Government bleat on about how they are becoming the Hub of Education, Healthcare, IT and numerous other Hubs and in fact there is not a week that goes by without some Thai Minister reporting that Thailand is now the Hub of X, Y or Z. These statements are often berated on the reporting websites comments boards with term most favored being ‘Hubba Hubba’.
One of the other favorite topics with the Thais is Singapore and again the government spin doctors are always churning our press releases telling the Thais and the world that this year will overtake Singapore in whatever subject happens to be flavor of the week, IT being one that gets regurgitated more often than a cow chewing its cud.
The sad fact is that all the counties above could be so much better off if they were to take positive steps, as Singapore did, to eradicate corruption. Maybe using the word ‘eradicate’ is a little too farfetched but certainly when you look at the corruption level in Singapore, compared to its Asia neighbors, such a model not only works but has allowed Singapore to develop and prosper in such a way that can only be a pipe dream for the other countries unless corruption is tackled head on.
Corruption, in any country, is primarily about two issues; A) Greed and; B) Attitude. When it comes to Thailand, a recent survey revealed that over 78% of the population is not opposed to corruption, providing they get a slice of the pie. Now that you can clear see the attitude let’s look at the greed.
Less than 1% of the Thai population controls over 98% of the wealth. The economic divided between the rich and the poor is cavernous. It is irrelevant which party is governing Thailand or indeed the Army during its numerous military coups, the level of corruption is fueled by their greed to obtain even more wealth due to the distinct class social structure – the more money you have the more power and respect you get from the people, it’s as simple as that. Wealth also allows for other privileges, such as being untouchable by the law.
It was only recently that the nephew of the Billionaire Red Bull Empire killed a police officer while driving his Ferrari in Bangkok while high on cocaine and alcohol. The result? He paid less that US$100,000 to the family and has never seen the inside of a court room.
Another case was that of a 15 year old girl, from an extremely wealthy and powerful Bangkok family, took her mother’s car, without permission, and ended up killing nine people on the express toll road. At the scene she was photographed texting on her mobile phone to a friend saying; “Ha ha ha, I think mummy and daddy are going to have to shell out some cash.” Her particular case unusually went to court; however the result was a driving ban – even though she was too young to drive and did not have a driving license. Corruption simply means you can pay your way out of anything, including murder.
When I first read the article, regarding the public survey, and how 78% of the population felt it was acceptable, I know a friend of my friends where pretty outraged that such a large proportion of the people found corruption acceptable. However you have to understand the culture behind corruption in places such as Thailand.
The general public is, by and large, uneducated. This is because the government and those in control of the wealth have ensured they remain so. It is always easier to control someone who is ignorant.
Some ten years ago in Thailand the average graft from a government contract was approximately ten percent. In 2012 this had risen to an average of sixty percent – again as corruption widens so does the greed that is associated with it. The illegal outflow of funds in Thailand and the other corruption Asian nations is now at breaking point as funds are being filtered away that should go into providing better standards of living, education, healthcare and welfare.
We are about to see the formation of the AEC (Asian Economic Community) in 2015 and while Thailand is expected to be part of this, it has already deferred joining until 2016 as its government is fully aware that it simply cannot compete against its neighbors due to the poor standards of education in Thailand. It is rightly feared that people from other nations will flock to Thailand looking for work and especially within the tourist sector. As most of the other Asian Nation populations speak extremely good English, and with no barriers stopping them from taking up employment, it is feared that the Thais, who’s English is rudimentary at best, will lose their jobs, putting millions of Thais out of work across the country.
The problems Thailand faces can all be attributed to corruption. The money has simply not been spent in areas that are vital for economic development and grow, but rather to line the pockets of the already wealthy in the pursuit of becoming untouchable.
I fear the spiraling levels of corruption here in Thailand and neighboring nations will leave their countries in ruin and with a very few, such as Singapore, reaping the benefits of fighting corruption with a prosperous and educated nation.