Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Avudh on Abhisit

The Nation

On top of fractious politics and other domestic woes, the installation of Abhisit's leadership coincided with the global economic downturn. The prime minister had reason to congratulate himself in rescuing the country from a freefall.

But this is no time to bask on a molehill of achievements when a mountain of problems remains unsolved. The economy has bottomed out; pundits seem to agree on this. But no one has a sure fire prediction on how long the recovery process will take.

Honestly, I think all this happy talk about green shoots is wishful thinking at this point.


The lynchpin to ensure the government's survival is the Bt1.43 trillion spending plan for the Strong Thailand Project.

The spending, to be spread over three years, is expected to rehabilitate and rebuild the economy on an unprecedented scale. It is the most ambitious nation-building plan to date.

Abhisit can be assured of his legacy if he can push through just half of the planned spending. The jury is still out on the issue. It is one thing to draw up a grand plan but success is measured by the implementation.

In a bureaucracy plagued by corruption, it is no easy task to implement a mega project, not to mention the Bt500 billion spending to revamp the country's logistic and transportation infrastructure.

The controversy surrounding the Bt4 billion bus leasing project should serve as a lesson that the Strong Thailand Project may never move from the drawing board to the implementation if partisan interests are allowed to cloud judgement.

To succeed, Abhisit needs to exert a firm leadership to safeguard the integrity of the spending plans. If corruption scandals erupt, then his ticket for survival may yield the opposite result, hastening his exit.

No doubt that Thailand needs massive investments in bringing the country's infrastructure into the 21st century.

Many politicians and bureaucrats will be made millionaires maybe even billionaires over night. Down the road, this unjust enrichment will change the power structure in Thailand, like it did when the military was embezzling military procurement money and when the provincial Godfathers became powerful after winning state concessions.

Avudh says it is Abhisit's duty to make sure that doesn't happen. History has a funny way of repeating itself.

In typical Nation fashion, he doesn't believe it is the media's role to check corruption.

So far, policy-wise, Abhisit's only claim to fame is out Thaksining Thaksin, except that state spending has increased exponentially. Most people can see through the charade, but with more state spending comes more corruption. That is the nature of beast.

Corruption will be Abhisit's Achille's heel. The Thai media can cover up for him and Newin only so much, and continue to lay all the blame at Thaksin's feet for every ill in Thai society, but if Puea Thai or the PAD media group can uncover any massive corruption during Abhisit's tenure and keep it in the news despite the cover-ups in the pro-Abhisit media, the show is over.

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