Bangkok governor, it's an insane job
- Published: 27/12/2012 at 10:07 AM
- Online news:
Early next year there will be an election to choose the next Bangkok governor. No doubt the question on everyone’s mind is, what the heck does the Bangkok governor actually do?
Seriously, what’s the job description? What does the governor do?
Every candidate in every governor election promises, first and foremost, the safety and protection of lives and property. But isn't that the job of the Royal Thai Police directly under the prime minister, rather than the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA)?
Also, doesn’t the Fire Department belong to the Royal Thai Police? Tackling the motorbike gang problems? Fighting illegal drugs and gambling? How? The governor doesn’t even run a police force. The Interior Ministry does.
Bangkok (file photo)
Solve the traffic problem? But who’s in charge? How is it that the BMA is responsible for the footpath, while the Transport Ministry manages the roads, but in some areas it’s vice versa? Why is it that the skytrain falls under BMA's jurisdiction, while the MRTA subway falls under the Transport Ministry, and responsibility for line extensions can fall either way?
In the last gubernatorial election, candidates promised wi-fi spots everywhere, but isn’t that the job of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Ministry? Why is it that in the capital there are schools under the BMA and others under the Education Ministry; hospitals under the BMA and also those under the Public Health Ministry?
And what happen when there’s a national disaster like the 2011 flood? Who’s in charge of Bangkok, the governor or the prime minister?
Bangkok governor, what is the job -- other than keeping pet dogs out of public parks and collecting garbage and dumping it in Nakhon Pathom province?
No wonder it’s difficult for political parties to find a candidate, nobody knows what the job actually entails. Talk about the crisscrossing of budgets and jurisdictions.
Perhaps that’s why over the past four years all incumbent Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra did was to plant trees, put up posters, paint lines on pavements and call them bicycle lanes, and install fake CCTV cameras. There just isn’t much else to do.
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration Act, BE 2528 outlines the power and role of the Bangkok governor, but other than hiring and firing city officials, everything else is vague and overlaps with the functions of the national government.
MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra (Photo by Pattanapong Hirunard)
There’s even a clause that says the governor’s job is to coordinate and carry out the orders of the national cabinet, the prime minister and the interior minister, but Governor Sukhumbhand tore that into pieces during the 2011 flood.
So, Mr Bangkok Governor, what is it that you actually do?
When functions are overlapped, budgets are overlapped and very little gets done, but a lot of people get to eat the cake. This isn’t necessarily the fault of the individual governors, but it is a problem of the definition, the status of Bangkok.
What is Bangkok? A self-administrative capital under the Kingdom of Thailand, or a crisscrossing, overlapping mess put together haphazardly and pillaged deliciously by the different agencies, local and national?
Take any mayor of any city in the world, the developed ones in any case. For example, the mayor of New York administers all city services, public property, police and fire protection, most public agencies and enforces all city and state laws.
In terms of role and power, MR Sukhumband has got nothing on Michael Bloomberg, except that I don’t see Mr Bloomberg defying President Barack Obama, like Mr Sukhumband did with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra – but that’s a political issue, not an administrative one.
For this coming Bangkok governor election, the most often asked question is a political one. Whether Bangkok will sway Pheu Thai's way or stay with the Democrats will speak volumes about the impact of national politics. Some say an independent should take the job and save Bangkok from the national political divide.
But the question for me is more simplistic: can someone please define the status of Bangkok with some sanity, and then write a suitable job description for the governorship?
About the author
- Writer: Voranai Vanijaka
Position: Political and Social Commentator