November 11: Thailand currently stands 78th out of 178 countries worldwide on the global ranking scales of corruption, on a par with China and just above India in the Asia-Pacific region. The rankings, published by Transparency International, the global coalition against corruption, are considered to be the most accurate and comprehensive index worldwide. The top three, least corrupt nations in the Asia-Pacific region are New Zealand, Singapore and Australia. More corrupt than Thailand, we can include the neighbouring states of Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and the Philippines, with Burma ranking 177th, on a par with Afghanistan.
Transparency International considers that all nations need to bolster their good governance mechanisms, but that “transparency and accountability are critical to restoring trust and turning back the tide of corruption. Without them, global policy solutions to many global crises are at risk.”
The 14th International Anti-Corruption Conference is currently being held in Bangkok, opened by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva . In his opening address, Wednesday, Nov10, he had this to say:
“Even today young people in my country tell me that they expect to see corruption everywhere. An unbelievable percentage of people also say it is ok for politicians to be corrupt so long as they are capable of bringing economic prosperity. The conventional wisdom is that corruption undermines economic growth and exacerbates poverty, but in reality rampant corruption can exist amidst high economic growth. Citizens must be aware that there is no such thing as good corruption.”
Later, National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) member Pakdee Pothisiri told the International Anti-Corruption Conference that while everyone in Thailand was aware of the corruption involved in state procurements, no one could solve the problem, according to the Bangkok Post.
It is estimated by the NACC that Thailand loses somewhere in the range of Bt100 billion every year to graft in government procurement projects, representing 20% of procurement project costs. The prime offenders include private companies who pay bribes to Thai politicians, civil servants and other authorities.
Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij told the conference that corruption negatively affects the competitiveness of the economy because it increases the cost of doing business in Thailand. He was, however, quick to commend 27 of Thailand’s leading companies who have committed themselves to scotching the massive bribery racket involving government officials.
G20 leaders will be considering implementing a new anti-corruption agenda at a forthcoming meeting to improve the accountability and transparency of the global financial system, which corruption according to World Bank estimates costs US$one trillion annually worldwide. That cost is keenly felt here in Thailand and in the Asia-Pacific region, where the poor suffer most and bribery is rampant.
Hugette Labelle,Transparency International’s Chairperson told the conference: “As the global community moves to tackle climate change mitigation poverty reduction, increasing the accountability of the global financial system and protecting human rights, we can’t afford now more than ever, the damaging effects of corruption. This conference is a particularly fitting platform for forging solutions to these global challenges and a particularly critical one is the global legal framework for the fight against corruption.”