by Pooky, this blog economics journalist
The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, US$700 million lending to Thailand for roads, is called “Un-usually Expensive” by sources in the Thai Finance Ministry, according to Matichon, a mass circulated Thai daily.
“The 4 lane road, as proposed by the Thai road building department, will cost about US$1 million per kilometers and that is way above what it normally costs and the road as proposed, will require continuous up-keep, but the Finance Ministry has never been able to get a straight answer from the road building department on this up-keep question,” said the source to Matichon.
The US$700 million lending is targeted to build roads in Thailand around the Mae Khong river area, to link Thailand, Laos, Mayanmar and Vietnam together, to generate inter-regional trade.
The lending is part of a commitment from the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, when she attended the head of ASEAN meet in Thailand, where Clinton pledged to help developed the Mae Khong River area-to help solve poverty through increase trade activities.
The mass circulated daily, Matichon, has close relations with the Democrat Party of the Thai prime minister, Abhisit. However, Matichon has a strong tradition of focus on exposing corruption.
The Thai road building department, is under the Thai Communications Ministry, to which the minister in charged is from Abhisit’s coalition party. Thailand’s corruption, currently, is rated by global independent units as one of the most corrupted country in the world.
“The Thai civil servants, politicians, the private sector and economic planners have traditionally conspired to corrupt about 20% of every baht spent on construction projects in Thailand,” said a lecturer and Thailand’s leading advocate for transparency at Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University, in Matichon.
According to lecturer, constructions projects in Thailand have been broken down into small pieces for ease of corruption and difficulty in ensuring transparency. The lecturer calls the current Thai government, when it comes to graft, as the “Sushi Buffet Cabinet.”
The US$700 million lending by the World Bank and ADB is broken up in to many small sub-pieces of projects.