With bribes hitting 30-50 per cent of project prices, and the public showing signs of becoming inured to the practice, corruption has reached a critical point, the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) said.
“Back in 1997, people used to react strongly when it found that bribes were 10-18 per cent [of project],” Deunden Nikomborirak from the TDRI said yesterday.
“Back then, they felt it was a very high percentage,” she told a seminar held by Krungthep Turakij TV’s “Business Talk” programme.
However, people hardly reacted to recent research that found graft had grown much worse, she said.
Thais might have already got used to corruption by now, she said.
However, she was not losing hope. When the situation becomes too serious, those who are affected would join forces and take action.
“That’s how an effective anti-corruption movement developed in Hong Kong,” she said.
“People are the only hope because law enforcers are not entirely free from political influence”.
People unaffected by corruption should also speak out against it.
“Let’s demand righteousness for society,” she said.
The seminar on an “Anti-Corruption Strategy by the Private Sector” was aimed at brainstorming ideas and following up on the progress against corruption.
Pramon Sutivong, chairman of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand, said the public had become more aware of the social disease but it would take more time to see tangible results. “We hope that more and more people will join us in preventing corruption,” he said.
The network plans to stage an anti-corruption rally on May 19 at Thammasat University to raise the younger generation’s awareness of corruption problems.
“We hope people will decide to not work with the corrupt,” he said.
The network would also monitor the government’s Bt2.2 trillion public infrastructure plan, Bt350 billion water management and flood prevention plan and rice-pledging scheme.
Vorawan Tarapoom, CEO of BBL Asset Management, said that out of 176 countries, Thailand ranked 88th in the latest Corruption Perceptions Index.
“Out of a possible score of 100 for transparency, Thailand had just 37. This is on par with Zambia, Swaziland and Malawi,” she said.
In comparison, Singapore got an 87 grade, she said.
The company was planning to persuade organisations to introduce more solid measures against irregularities.
“We may pass a resolution to not support any lending to corrupt companies,” she said.
The media should take a more proactive role in cracking down on fraud, she added.
Prateep Tangmatitham, vice president of the Thai Listed Companies Association, told the seminar that anti-corruption efforts in the private sector would succeed if high-level executives had good intentions and laid down good policies.
“For example, they should develop clear rules on the acceptance and scope of gifts. All organisations should also have an independent panel to investigate suspicious cases,” he said.
Banyong Pongpanich, CEO of Kiatnakin Bank, said the government should do more outsourcing of services. “Many pay bribes because they want convenience in contacting authorities and receiving services,” he said.
A survey showed that 70 per cent of companies have paid bribes in exchange for convenience, and 80 per cent of them said the money was worth it, he said.
“Outsourcing can improve the delivery of services by government agencies. That’s why many foreign governments have already used outsourcing. When private enterprises can receive services conveniently, they won’t resort to bribe paying,” he said.
Instilling the right attitude and proper values would go a long way, so Thais must be taught two things. “They must not cheat and they must not allow themselves to be cheated.”
First published in The Nation, 6 May 2013