More people believe corruption on the rise: Thai poll

THAILAND - Thailand's corruption-perception index in Thailand increased to 74 per cent in June from 63 per cent in December 2012, according to a survey of 2,400 respondents conducted by the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC).

Some 51.9 per cent of respondents believed firms that win government contracts pay more than 25 per cent of the project value in bribes, up from 38.5 per cent who believed this in the previous survey.

Corruption continues to worsen despite higher public awareness of the problem, but people remain optimistic that things will get better in the future, the UTCC said.

Based on the UTCC's calculation, corruption in 2013 is expected to cost the nation more than Bt235 billion (S$9.5 billion), compared to an overall investment and disbursement budget of Bt2.4 trillion.

The figure is based on claims by surveyed business operators, who say they have to pay kickbacks equivalent to 25 per cent of their projects' cost in order to win government contracts. At a minimum, the cost of corruption is put at the equivalent of 1.88 per cent of GDP this year.

Saowanee Thairungroj, president of the UTCC, said yesterday that the wasteful siphoning off of bribes to corrupt figures was greater than the national budget for research and development.

According to the survey, people of all ages have become aware of the critical situation regarding corruption. The many school corruption-awareness projects that have been implemented have been effective, raising the percentage of youth aged 15-20 who are aware that bribery is unacceptable to 88 per cent in this survey from 64 per cent last time, she said.

While the Tolerance of Corruption Index has decreased slightly, down to 3.08 from 3.30, it is still high, reflecting the fact that a significant number of Thais still tend to accept graft and bribery.

"This also means that the government does not feel much pressure from society to solve corruption issues in Thailand, said the director of the UTCC's Economic and Business Forecasting Centre, Thanavath Phonvichai.

The survey asked respondents to identify the causes of corruption. Some 24.4 per cent pointed to loopholes in the Kingdom's laws and regulations; 16.2 per cent to non-transparent political procedures; and 11.5 per cent to lax law enforcement.

According to the survey, public confidence in the government's policies on tackling corruption has increased from 4.2 per cent to 4.4 per cent, as the government has emphasised the significance of the issue on the national agenda. However, people do not hold great expectations that the government's recently announced efforts on this front will eradicate corruption in Thailand.

"If the government signs and implements [a proposed] integrity pact, confidence will be further boosted," Thanavath said.

At a minimum, publication of information on all procedures related to government projects will help solve the corruption problem, according to 61.4 per cent of respondents, but at present 53.7 per cent categorised the availability of information as "little-to-least".