Visionary strategies and short-sighted politicians don't go together
Not surprisingly, Premier Yingluck Shinnawatra's 4 main national "strategies" announced last week have not evoked a national sensation.
It's no rocket science to declare that the country badly needs to find ways to become more competitive against other countries. Nor is it an earthshaking pronouncement to say that bridging the rich-poor gap is one of the government's top priorities. And to put stress on environment-friendly initiatives won't excite anybody these days. To be quite frank about it, I can recall the fourth major plank of the "national platform" myself. If it was a call for a serious anti-corruption effort, it wouldn't be taken seriously unless the premier could convince the rest of the country that things are going to be for real this time around.
The event was meant to be a launching pad for a renewal of a genuine National Agenda but most critics took the government to task for the announcement that it would triple the per capital income in ten years. The plan to borrow Bt2 trillion to lay the country's infrastructure was also challenged for the lack of any real action plans.
The blueprint was immediately questioned by Nibhond Puapongsakorn of the TDRI "think tank" for being ambiguous and unrealistic. He said such a major exercise to map out the country's future should be the joint effort of professional engineers, economists, legal experts, technocrats and politicians, perhaps in that order.
But the Big Plan announced with fanfare by the government last week was seen as no more than the exclusive work of politicians bent on spending huge sums of national budget without much consideration for effective implementation and, most importantly, without any suggestion how the progress of each project could be monitored and measured.
What Thailand badly needs, regardless of who's in power, is well-known but politicians in charge don't seem to have come up with any satisfactory plans.
What a real "National Agenda for the Future of Thailand" should incorporate must include:
1. Overhaul of the education policy.
2. Put the country on the path of innovation.
3. A credible action plan to reduce the gap between the haves and have-nots -- a gulf that has so far defied any pledge by all the past governments.
4. An anti-corruption campaign that works.
5. A genuine plan to decentralize power from the Cabinet to the provinces.
6. A serious action plan to revamp the bureaucratic system.
The main paradox is that while the citizens of this country demand that politicians who are granted the mandate to rule must get all these actions in order, it's precisely these people in power who constitute the main obstacles to the fulfillment of these crucial aims.
All these national objectives, without which Thailand won't be able to move forwards in any significant way, are necessarily tough nuts to crack, requiring vision, sacrifice and accountability from the powers-that-be. These qualities, unfortunately, are exactly what are lacking among those seeking high offices in this country.
Premier Yingluck insists that she is in charge of the government – and her brother Thaksin hasn’t been running her Cabinet through Skype – as suggested by an article published in the New York Times last week.
Her statement would be made more credible if she undertook to draw up a genuine National Agenda that really spells out her own vision of where the country should be headed – and , more important, how those action plans will be implemented under her direction.
Nobody expects her to follow her critics’ suggestion that the premier should show her independence and real power by ordering police to have Thaksin arrested – as was the case with Somchai Kunpluem, better known as “Kamnan Poh” who had fled court verdicts for several years before being cornered.
But she can demonstrate her leadership by coming up with a plan to build the nation that she can really call her own. A large number of people in the country are waiting anxiously for that master stroke.