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20 March 2015
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Govt push to inject transparency slows ‘Little progress’ in reining in monopolies

ACHARA ASHAYAGACHAT
Government efforts to increase transparency through policy have been slow, particularly for setting limits on state monopolistic power, according to the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI).

The TDRI found that six months into office, the government has made little progress in limiting state power monopolies, said Tippatrai Saelawong, a TDRI researcher.

The research found that limiting monopolies reached only 25% of the target set by state agencies fighting corruption.

Efforts to control national expenditure are also lagging behind, and have only reached 38% of the desired target.

If the government continues at the current pace, it will only have achieved 40% of the target throughout its tenure, according to the study.

Thanakorn Juangpanich, a member of the anti-corruption subcommittee with the National Council for Peace and Order, said efforts to improve state accountability in large projects were sparked by public pressure on the state.

One tool being used is the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative to improve the value for money spent on large infrastructure projects by increasing levels of transparency and accountability.

The initiative could be applied to the phase 2 extension project of Suvarnabhumi airport to ensure that construction meets anti-corruption standards, he suggested.

Banyong Pongpanich, a member of the government’s ‘super board’ overseeing state enterprises, said he hoped more could be done within the limited time of the military government.

“What I’m concerned about is how much tolerance and patience society has while waiting for the results of Gen Prayut’s reforms related to increasing accountability,” he said.

“If we look only at short-term economic growth, many state enterprises have suggested they will increase their budgets and boost investment,” he said.

It is now time to assess the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of state investment plans, Mr Banyong said.

Mana Nimitmongkol, the secretarygeneral for the National Anti-Corruption Commission of Thailand, said that within 10 days of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha declaring anti-corruption policies to the National Legislative Assembly, some departments were working more effectively.

He cited the Department of Industrial Works which had cleared a backlog of 400 registration applications.

Critics have said slow work by some agencies could open the way for tea money to be collected.

The government agencies are now required to announce the public timeline and time frame for endorsing certain licences.

“Any improvement in the pace of work, which also could make for greater transparency is deemed a big success,” said Mr Mana.

He also proposed reviews of outdated and unncessary laws and regulations should be finished within three, not five years, and in doing so the private sector and civil society, not just bureaucrats, should also give input.

The legislative and executive branches, he said, have annulled 12 obsolete laws but many more should be revoked.

Duanden Nikomboriraks, a TDRI executive, noted other countries have dropped obsolete laws.

South Korea scrapped 5,000 such laws and Vietnam, 2,000 laws. Thailand, however, has done substantially less despite having some 10,000 outdated laws under review by the Council of State now, said Ms Duanden.

In other countries, she said, the Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) was effective in weighing the significance and relevance of a law or a policy measure, but in Thailand this is not the case.

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First Published:  Bangkok Post, March 19, 2015

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