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High-speed rail: Big money project for the rich?

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Big spending for high-speed rail questioned by Thaksin's former Finance Ministers. More capacity for existing rail cargo & passenger makes more sense. 

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INFRASTRUCTURE

Thanong, Somkid urge caution 

25 Apr 2013
Wichit Chantanusornsiri

The government must ensure its ambitious 2-trillion-baht infrastructure scheme delivers value for the public and does not undermine the country's financial stability, two former finance ministers warned yesterday.

Thanong Bidaya and Somkid Jatusripitak, both former finance ministers under the Thaksin Shinawatra government, sounded notes of caution over the investment programme at a seminar yesterday.

Dr Thanong, who was finance minister from 2005-06, said corruption and economic value are valid issues of concern with the programme.

Nearly half the funds would be allocated to four new high-speed rail links. Dr Thanong said this made less economic sense compared with plans to upgrade existing rail tracks to support greater passenger and cargo transport.

"High-speed trains, I'm afraid, will only further highlight the income gap within society, as only the wealthy will be able to use the service while the poor will have to use slower means of transportation," he said.

Dr Somkid, finance minister from 2001-05, said prioritising public investment was critical for any policymaker.

Thailand's biggest problem today is not transportation or connectivity, but rather income distribution, poverty and competitiveness.

"I think we have to be realistic. We are a poor country. Of course, everyone wants to sit in a Mercedes-Benz. But we need to think about what is feasible," said Dr Somkid, currently the chairman of the Thailand Future Foundation.

The Yingluck Shinawatra government has highlighted the 2-trillion-baht, seven-year investment programme as critical for improving Thailand's competitiveness and supporting future economic growth.

The government views the plan as critical to adapting to increased integration of regional economies under the Asean Community starting in 2015.

But Dr Somkid warned the programme should not crowd out or act as a substitute for normal public investment under the annual government budget.

He quoted a slogan used by the Thai Rak Thai Party, the political entity founded by Thaksin that was the original incarnation of the ruling Pheu Thai Party, to make his point.

"In economic development, you have to water the roots, not the leaves. When you water the leaves, it's akin to just bribing the public," Dr Somkid said.

The Finance Ministry has insisted the infrastructure programme, to be financed under a special bill now under review by parliament, will not undermine the country's finances.

Public debt will remain under its target of 50% of gross domestic product for the rest of the decade, the ministry says.

But economist and executive chairman of the Thailand Future Foundation Sethaput Suthiwart-narueput said the capacity to service the debt was more important than debt-to-GDP figures.

He warned that debt expenses could rise dangerously by 2020 if losses from the rice pledging programme increase, economic growth slows or interest rates rise beyond projections.

(Source: Bangkok Post, INFRASTRUCTURE, Thanong, Somkid urge caution, 25 Apr 2013, Wichit Chantanusornsiri, link)


Megaproject Caution Vocabulary

makes sense - is meaningful, is sensible, is practical ได้ความ
makes less sense - is less pratical or sensible
doesn't make sense - is not meaningful ไม่ได้ความ

makes economic sense
this made less economic sense

realistic - sensible, practical ซึ่งปฏิบัติได้จริง,  ซึ่งสมเหตุสมผล
we have to be realistic


crowd out - the situation in loan markets when the government borrows so much money that it affects the availability of loans and makes borrowing more expensive for private companies that want to borrow (See Wikipedia)

the infrastructure investment programme should not crowd out or act as a substitute for normal public investment

megaproject -

infrastructure - the high-cost facilities that everyone in the economy shares (water, roads, electricity, trains) สาธารณูปโภค

scheme
- a plan that is developed by a government or large organisation in order to provide a particular service for people แผนการ โครงการ
ambitious 2-trillion-baht infrastructure scheme

ambitious - difficult and needing a lot of effort to succeed ทะเยอทยาน
ambitious 2-trillion-baht infrastructure scheme

value - worth, value, usefulness มูลค่า, ค่า, คุณค่า,  คุณประโยชน์
economic value 
delivers value for the public

stability - when a situation does change suddenly, unexpectedly and unpredictably, so people can operate normally and successfully ความมั่นคง ความมีเสถียรภาพ ความมั่นคง
financial stability
the country's financial stability

undermine - to make weak; to make someone become gradually less effective, confident, or successful บ่อนทำลาย; ทำให้อ่อนลง,ทำลายทีละน้อย,ทำลายอย่างลับ
undermine the country's financial stability

ensure - to make certain that something happens or is done รับรอง ให้ความมั่นใจ ให้การยืนยัน
The government must ensure ....

The government must ensure its ambitious 2-trillion-baht infrastructure scheme delivers value for the public and does not undermine the country's financial stability.

urge - to advise someone very strongly about what action or attitude they should take วิงวอน ย้ำเตือน
caution - doing things carefully to avoid any danger ความระมัดระวัง

urge caution 
Thanong, Somkid urge caution
sounded notes of caution

Thanong Bidaya and Somkid Jatusripitak, both former finance ministers under the Thaksin Shinawatra government, sounded notes of caution over the investment programme at a seminar yesterday.

investment - taking your money and putting it into projects to make a profit or earn interest (buying stock shares, bonds, real estate)
investment programme

corruption - (See Wikipedia on bribery and political corruption)

valid - reasonable and generally accepted ที่มีเหตุผลพอ
valid issues of concern

issues - an important subect that people are discussing and debating about ประเด็น
concern - a worry ความกังวล
issues of concern

Dr Thanong, who was finance minister from 2005-06, said corruption and economic value are valid issues of concern with the programme.

funds - money needed or available to spend on something เงินทุน
allocated - given for a special purpose or use
funds allocated to high-speed rail links

links - connections ความเชื่อมโยงกัน
high-speed rail links

cargo - goods carried in a truck, plane, or train สินคา้ที่บรรจุในตู้สินค้า ขนส่งทางรถหรือรถไฟ (ในภาษาไทย บางครั้งเรียก ตู้คอนเทนเนอร์)
cargo transport

transport - to move people or things from one place to another ขนส่ง
passenger and cargo transport

upgrade - improve; make new, modern, and up-to-date
support - help สนับสนุน
upgrade existing rail tracks to support greater passenger and cargo transport

Nearly half the funds would be allocated to four new high-speed rail links. Dr Thanong said this made less economic sense compared with plans to upgrade existing rail tracks to support greater passenger and cargo transport.

income - money that people receive from work or some other source, used for household consumption and savings
gap - a large difference between people or groups ช่องว่าง
the income gap within society

highlight - emphasize; make something seem important; the important part that gets people's attention จุดสำคัญ เรียกทับศัพท์ว่า ไฮไลท์ เน้น ย้ำความสำคัญ
high-speed trains will further highlight the income gap within society

wealthy
- having a large amount of money, land, and other valuable things ที่มั่งคั่ง ร่ำรวย
only the wealthy will be able to use the service

means
- methods; ways วิธี, วิธีการ
means of transportation
the poor will have to use slower means of transportation

"High-speed trains, I'm afraid, will only further highlight the income gap within society, as only the wealthy will be able to use the service while the poor will have to use slower means of transportation," he said.

priority - an important thing that must be done first (before other doing other things)
prioritising - deciding which things are important and must be done first

public investment - things that the government builds or makes that everyone in the country uses such as trains roads, bridges, etc (expensive so money must be borrowed and paid back over time)
prioritising public investment - choosing which expensive government projects should go first

critical - extremely important because a future situation will be affected by it สำคัญยิ่ง
critical for any policymaker.

prioritising public investment was critical for any policymaker

connectivity - when places are connected by roads, railways, etc, so it is easy go from one place to another place ภาวะเชื่อมต่อ,  สภาพเชื่อมโย

income distribution - in the country how much income is made by rich people compared to poor and middle class people การกระจายรายได้
poverty - being poor ความจน
competitiveness - how well a business can do compared to other firms (does it have lower price or higher quality?) การแข่งขัน
Thailand's biggest problem today is not transportation or connectivity, but rather income distribution, poverty and competitiveness.

feasible - possible to do, possible to succeed at or achieve; possible for project to be completed, possible to achieve; project has a good chance of being successful ซึ่งเป็นไปได้ ความเป็นไปได้

"I think we have to be realistic. We are a poor country. Of course, everyone wants to sit in a Mercedes-Benz. But we need to think about what is feasible," said Dr Somkid, currently the chairman of the Thailand Future Foundation.

highlighted - emphasized, stressed;  made more noticeable ที่เน้นย้ำ
critical - important
highlighted as critical for improving competitiveness

The Yingluck Shinawatra government has highlighted the 2-trillion-baht, seven-year investment programme as critical for improving Thailand's competitiveness and supporting future economic growth.

integration - the process of combining with others to create a single unit or system that work together well การรวมเข้าด้วยกัน, การผสมผสาน
integration of regional economies

The government views the plan as critical to adapting to increased integration of regional economies under the Asean Community starting in 2015.

annual - happening once a year ประจำปี 
budget - the amounts of money that an organisation has available to spend on different things during a period งบประมาณ (See Wikipedia)
annual government budget

substitute
- a person or thing that is used instead of another person or thing คนหรือสิ่งที่เข้าแทน
act as a substitute for
act as a substitute for normal public investment under the annual government budget.

But Dr Somkid warned the programme should not crowd out or act as a substitute for normal public investment under the annual government budget.

entity - something which exists apart from other things, having its own independent existence
political entity
the Thai Rak Thai Party, the political entity founded by Thaksin

ruling - controls the government now; has power 
the ruling Pheu Thai Party

incarnation - the form or identity that something at a point in time (changes form over time)
the original incarnation of
the original incarnation of the ruling Pheu Thai Party,

the original incarnation of the ruling Pheu Thai Party, to make his point.

slogan - a short easily remembered phrase, especially one used to advertise an idea or a product สโลแกน
quote a slogan

point  -
one thing that you are arguing about or trying to persuade or convince people aboutu จุด, ข้อ, ประเด็น
point in dispute  - 
ประเด็นข้อพิพาท
make his point - to persuade people about something

he quoted a slogan to make his point.

He quoted a slogan used by the Thai Rak Thai Party, the political entity founded by Thaksin that was the original incarnation of the ruling Pheu Thai Party, to make his point.

development - the gradual growth and formation of something
economic development

roots - the part of a plant that takes water into a plant that is below the ground ราก, รากพืช, รากใต้ดิน
leaves -
the part of a plant that is green and above ground, when sun shines on it nutrients for plant are created (photosynthesis) กลีบ, กลีบดอก, กลีบดอกไม้
water the roots
you have to water the roots, not the leaves

akin to ...  -
similar to ..., almost the same as ...
bribing - giving money or presents to someone so that they will help you by doing something dishonest or illegal ติดสินบน
it's akin to just bribing the public

"In economic development, you have to water the roots, not the leaves. When you water the leaves, it's akin to just bribing the public," Dr Somkid said.

review  - looking at something again to evaluate it and make a judgement about it, whether it should continue or not พิจารณาใหม่
under review
under review by parliament

bill - a written document containing a proposal for a new law ญัตติ
a special bill now under review by parliament

insisted - say firmly that something must happen or is true, and will not change mind

The Finance Ministry has insisted the infrastructure programme, to be financed under a special bill now under review by parliament, will not undermine the country's finances.

debt - an amount of money that you owe หนี้
public debt - government debt, money the government has borrowed

target - a goal; the amount you are planning to achieve เป้าหมาย
public debt will remain under its target

gross - being the total before costs and taxes are taken away
domestic - within the country ภายในประเทศ
gross domestic product (GDP) - the total value of all the goods and services produced by a country in one year

decade - a period of ten years ทศวรรษ, ระยะเวลา 10 ปี
for the rest of the decade

ministry - a government department dealing with an area of activity กระทรวง

Public debt will remain under its target of 50% of gross domestic product for the rest of the decade, the ministry says.

service the debt - pay the interest on the amount borrowed (principal)

capacity - the ability to do something ความสามารถในการทำงาน
capacity to service the debt

figures - statistics, numbers describing the economy
debt-to-GDP figures

But economist and executive chairman of the Thailand Future Foundation Sethaput Suthiwart-narueput said the capacity to service the debt was more important than debt-to-GDP figures.

interest - payments made for the use of another's money for a period of time
interest rates

projections - what is expected to happen in the future
interest rates rise beyond projections

He warned that debt expenses could rise dangerously by 2020 if losses from the rice pledging programme increase, economic growth slows or interest rates rise beyond projections.

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