Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Bangkok Pundit on Corruption under Thaksin

I'm not sure if he has included 'policy corruption' in this piece, but it's a rare pleasure having Bangkok Pundit acknowledge that Thaksin was corrupt:

"Unsurprisingly, with the military in control corruption worsened according to TI - yes it worsened in Thaksin's final year too which I think is fair.

This of course doesn't mean I don't think Thaksin was not corrupt or there was no corruption in his government. I am not sure I have clearly articulated my thoughts before on corruption under Thaksin, but here we go.

First, as a Prime Minister Thaksin as an individual (ok, one was must include Potjaman here) was more corrupt than previous Prime Ministers. What I mean is that Thaksin personally benefited or corruption went to himself or Potjaman than under previous Prime Ministers. Under Thaksin, power was centralized and where comes power comes corruption. There was not a need for all the factions to be as corrupt as previous factions because the money came from Thaksin. Chuan was less corrupt, but then you always had Suthep.

Second, excluding Thaksin his administration was less corrupt than previous governments. What I mean here is that under the previous Democrat-led government in 1998-2000, power was wide-spread so everyone had their fingers in the pie. All those factions and political parties needed to finance their election expenses.

If you combine Thaksin and his administration and look at them as one. I think they were equally corrupt (actually so marginally less corrupt that it is minuscule) in percentage of GDP terms than previous democratically-elected administrations. When I am talking about administration I am referring everyone in the government, including coalition partners.

Third, outside of Thaksin and his administration there was less corruption in Thai society than in previous governments. I don't believe that the war on drugs/dark influences (i.e mafia gangs) were completely successful, but together with the legalising the underground lottery there were some victories in the "war on corruption" which principally affected those not directly connected with the government. Now, I don't think he/TRT did this for pure altruistic reasons, but I also don't think it was some unintended consequence as it also had electoral benefits as it was mainly the poor and lower-middle class who benefited from this. Loan sharks were affected by the village fund and greater access to personal credit. Mafia gangs who demanded money from motorcycle taxis were severely crippled. Drug gangs were reduced. I think mafia gangs affiliated with the military were particularly affected and the police less so, if not at all.

This explains why the surveys point to less corruption/greater control of corruption in Thailand under Thaksin, but more personal corruption by Thaksin. I am not saying the centralisation is a good thing, but less corruption is."
Bangkok Pundit