End stupidity fees | Bangkok Post: opinion

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End stupidity fees

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The world's most original theme park must surely be a 125-rai stretch of landscaped greenery in Beijing devoted to "clean politics" and the elimination of graft and political wrongdoing from everyday life. The highlight is a statue of a government official looking in a large bronze mirror intended to reflect honesty and good governance. Similar parks with abstract sculptures portraying political honesty and public accountability are being opened in other cities in China. Despite the educational value of such targeted theme parks, they are unlikely to catch on here. 

That is because our most expensive and embarrassing project failures usually remain in full view where they can remind present and future generations how easily taxpayer money can be wasted. Commuters who pass the concrete eyesores that are all that is left of the Hopewell project might be surprised at how much they cost. Launched in 1990 and intended to be an elevated highway and rail line from the city centre to Don Mueang airport, the 80 billion baht project was terminated in 1998 when it was less than 13% complete, leaving over 1,000 gaunt and ugly pillars standing idle along the planned route. One of these pillars collapsed and blocked the main rail line in March, underlining the need for an urgent solution.

That seems unlikely because the contract for the project was reviewed, scrapped and revived before being finally abandoned and the legal mess has been bogged down in the courts for years. In 2008 an arbitration panel ruled that the Transport Ministry and State Railway of Thailand had to pay 11.8 billion baht in compensation to the concessionaire. An appeal against this stupidity fee immediately followed and the pillars must stay in place until a final decision is reached. Some foresight, transparency and good governance instead of greed, incompetence and bureaucratic ineptitude could have avoided all this. Unfortunately Hopewell is not the only model that foreign investors study before committing funds to joint ventures.

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