Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Thais - not the people they once were
Thailand is no longer attractive to foreign investors; we are all to blame for this sad state of affairs
Although it is unclear how the domestic political crisis will evolve, government ministries and agencies plan to submit proposals asking for a budget to recover damages caused by the month-long stand-off.
The money alone, however, will not provide a quick fix for the economic and social problems that Thailand is facing now. The country is fast losing its attractiveness as a friendly partner to work with. Thais used to pride themselves on being good business partners; the country guaranteeing a certain level of stability and predictability. However, the prolonged crisis shows Thais lacking the ability to negotiate and reconcile with each other. Besides this, the chronic problem of massive corruption has never been addressed.
The Industry Ministry earlier this week said it plans to seek Bt6.1 billion to enhance the capacity of three industries. The Commerce Ministry is meanwhile planning to provide soft loans for the franchise industry to promote small- and medium-sized businesses, as well as to promote a "creative economy".
These proposals, the ministries claim, are in line with the reconciliation plan recently announced by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. Abhisit has included an initiative to bridge the income gap between rich and poor as one of the five points on his reconciliation roadmap.
However, bridging economic differences requires a fair distribution of income. Over recent years, big corporations have managed to reap huge profits from a series of concessions and monopolies that small- and medium-sized companies with no political connections have been excluded from.
The figures of companies listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand show that the bigger corporations have got bigger while the smaller ones have seen their profits diminishing because they lack the political networks to compete with the subsidiaries of these well-connected companies. There is a growing number of middle-class entrepreneurs who have worked hard to succeed. However, these people are now hard hit by the political mess. They are not alone. People in rural areas are not provided with good education or job opportunities. That's why many have come to Bangkok to seek a better standard of living.
Instead of wishful thinking that tax money will provide a quick fix for the economy, the government should shift its energy to correcting the political stalemate. How to ensure that economic pie will be distributed fairly to all, instead of concentrated in a small number of hands with political connections - will be a serious challenge.
The political crisis that has led the country to the edge of this abyss is very much a result of the absolute failure to end corruption, the chronic problem that has become an accepted part of Thai society. Thai politicians and officials are utterly shameless in abusing their power for self-interest because our society has become irrevocably materialistic. We do not value honest people but adore those who show their wealth, regardless of how they abused their power to get it.
The current stand-off illustrates how Thais lack the moral qualities of acceptance, compassion and tolerance - all of which were once integral parts of our psyche.
The root causes of the issue, not sufficiently addressed, are poor education and job opportunities. People from rural provinces join the red-shirt movement to show their anger because they feel they are social victims. Bangkokians are held hostage to that anger but, ironically, the politicians from these underperforming provinces have never been held accountable for failing to improve the economic well-being of their constituents. These politicians only exert their political clout during each election season.
Everyone must participate in the effort to improve our society. Otherwise, the anger will continue to persist. The corruption issue must be urgently addressed. Likewise, the attitude of being victimised by society should also be eliminated. People have to strive to make the best of themselves and become more self-reliant instead of waiting for quick and easy handouts from politicians.
Thai workers must strive to improve their capacity - to prove to the world that they are still trustworthy. Otherwise, Thailand will become a country of mediocre workers that cannot stand competitively in this new world order. And nothing will emerge from this political crisis but a ruined nation. Editorial, The Nation, Bangkok
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