Govt debt: Borrow 2 trillion now for next half century?

Borrowing in one lump sum for next 50 years without public participation, transparency or oversight? This provides big corruption opportunity, say critics.

Thailand is not currently one of the countries in the world with high levels of public debt (government debt) as seen in this map showing public debt for countries around the world. The redder the country, the bigger the public debt  the country has. (Source: Wikipedia on Government Debt)

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EDITORIAL

Time to regain public's trust

21 Mar 2013

The cabinet on Tuesday gave the green light to the Finance Ministry to borrow 2 trillion baht from domestic and foreign sources to implement the country's most ambitious infrastructure development projects to-date.

The government says the projects will greatly improve the country's competitiveness and bring about economic prosperity.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said the huge borrowings would put public debt at less than 50% of gross domestic product - still a safe level that will not harm fiscal discipline

The 2 trillion baht in debt, he said, will be repaid in a period not exceeding 50 years. That means that every Thai citizen today and those who are yet to be born will have to foot the bill for the next half century.

Most critics, including this newspaper, have no objection to the infrastructure projects if they are meant for the benefit of the country and its people. What they are opposed to is the abnormal way the government approaches the projects. That is, to seek outside loans in one lump sum rather than getting funding from annual budgets, and the lack of transparency regarding the projects.

Public participation is non-existent and there is a widespread concern that it will be bypassed for the sake of speedy implementation of the projects. Environmental impact assessment studies which are a must for any projects which may affect the livelihoods of the people and the environment are rarely mentioned.

But the biggest doubt in the minds of the public about this ambitious undertaking by the government is the corruption problem.

Transport Minister Chadchat Sittipunt, whose ministry is in charge of implementing most of the rail and road projects, admitted the public does not trust the projects will be corruption-free. He also stressed the need for the government to restore public trust and confidence, with the private sector's anti-graft network being invited to participate in the scrutiny process.

Meanwhile, Mr Kittiratt said the projects would come under tough scrutiny based on benchmark prices set by the Finance Ministry and procurement regulations of the Prime Minister's Office to ensure transparency.

Well said by both Mr Kittiratt and Mr Chadchat. But time will prove whether they really mean it

Let's take the transparency issue for a start. It will be more convincing and helpful in building trust if the government is more honest and straightforward on the public debt issue, particularly the hidden debt from the populist rice pledging scheme which is concealed in state-owned banks such as the Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC). If the loss from the scheme, estimated at 170 billion baht for the first year and about 200 billion baht for the second year, is added up, Thailand's public debt may actually exceed 50% of GDP. 

Because of the high stakes involved, the public has every reason to doubt the government, despite all its promises, will be able to keep corruption at a minimum. Mr Kittiratt must make sure the staggering public debt which we as Thais and our next generations are forced to shoulder without any choice is worth spending - every baht of it.

(Source: Bangkok Post, Opinion, EDITORIAL, Time to regain public's trust, 21 Mar 2013, link

 
Public Debt Scrutiny Vocabulary

public debt - government debt; the amount of money that the government owes (from borrowing to pay for government spending in the past) (See Wikipedia

debt - an amount of money that you owe หนี้


scrutiny - looking at the details of something to find any problems that might exist การตรวจสอบอย่างละเอียด, การใคร่ครวญอย่างละเอียด 
public debt scrutiny

fiscal - related to government spending; connected with the government budget, i.e., public money เกี่ยวกับงบประมาณ
discipline - control, following rules and standards of behaviour, forcing others to follow these rules ปฏิบัติตามระเบียบข้อบังคับ

fiscal discipline - the control of government spending and borrowing by a country so that it does not become a problem in the future and lead to sovereign default or a sovereign debt crisis such as the present European sovereign debt crisis, also called "fiscal conservatism" (See Wikipedia)

a safe level of public debt that will not harm fiscal discipline

trust - believing in someone (believing that they will do as promised and not hurt you)  ความเชื่อใจ, ความไว้วางใจ, ความไว้เนื้อเชื่อใจ
the public's trust

regain - to get back something that was lost or taken away ได้กลับมา  ได้กลับมาใหม่  บังคับรถได้เหมือนเดิม
Time to regain public's trust

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) -  the total value of all the goods and services produced by a country in one year ผลิตภัณฑ์มวลรวมภายในประเทศ

ambitious - difficult and needing a lot of effort to succeed ความทะเยอทยาน
the most ambitious

to-date -
up to now; up to the present time
the most ambitious to-date

infrastructure - the high-cost facilities that everyone in the economy shares (water, roads, electricity, trains) สาธารณูปโภค
development - building something, creating something new
infrastructure development projects

gave the green light - to tell someone they can begin some activity; give permission to begin

domestic - within the country ภายในประเทศ
source - the place where something comes from
domestic and foreign sources

implement - put a plan into action, make a plan work นำมาใช้ นำ แผนหรือนโยบายมาปฏิบัติ
implement project
implement infrastructure project
implement the country's most ambitious infrastructure development projects to-date

The cabinet on Tuesday gave the green light to the Finance Ministry to borrow 2 trillion baht from domestic and foreign sources to implement the country's most ambitious infrastructure development projects.

improve - to make better ทำให้ดีขึ้น
greatly improve
greatly improve the country's competitiveness

competitiveness - how well a business can do compared to other firms (does it have lower price or higher quality?) การแข่งขัน
the country's competitiveness

prosperity - the situation of being successful and having a lot of money ความมั่งคั่ง ความเจริญรุ่งเรือง
economic prosperity
bring about economic prosperity

The government says the projects will greatly improve the country's competitiveness and bring about economic prosperity.

harm - damage ความเสียหาย
will not harm fiscal discipline

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said the huge borrowings would put public debt at less than 50% of gross domestic product - still a safe level that will not harm fiscal discipline

exceeding - passing a limit, going beyond
a period not exceeding 50 years

citizen - someone who has the right to live permanently in a particular country and therefore has legal rights and responsibilities พลเมือง  (See Wikipedia)
Thai citizen

century - a period of one hundred years ศตวรรษ
the next half century- the next 50 years

foot the bill - pay for something
foot the bill for the next half century

The 2 trillion baht in debt, he said, will be repaid in a period not exceeding 50 years. That means that every Thai citizen today and those who are yet to be born will have to foot the bill for the next half century.

critics - people who don't like something and who state their opinion about it นักวิจารณ์
critics of the infrastructure projects

objection
- an argument against something; a statement that shows that you disagree with a plan, or a reason for your disagreement การแถลงการคัดค้าน
have no objection to - meaning: do not disagree with something (so agree with it)
have no objection to the infrastructure projects

benefit (verb) - to get help or an advantage from something ผลประโยชน์; to help someone มีประโยชน์ต่อ
benefit (noun) - some help or advantage or good thing you get
infrastructure projects meant for the benefit of the country and its people.

Most critics, including this newspaper, have no objection to the infrastructure projects if they are meant for the benefit of the country and its people.

abnormal - not normal or usual (in a bad way); not usual or typical ผิดปกติ ไม่ธรรมดา
the abnormal way the government approaches the projects

opposed to - does not agree with, does not want this
What they are opposed to is the abnormal way the government approaches the projects.

sum - an amount of something, especially money จำนวนเงิน
one lump sum - one large amount of money at one point in time (instead of many small amounts spread over time)

annual - happening once a year ประจำปี
budget - future plans for spending (usually for the next year)
annual budgets

funding - money given for a particular purpose การให้เงินสนับสนุน
funding from annual budgets

lack - does not have ขาดแคลน
transparency - an honest way of doing things that allows other people to know exactly what you are doing ความโปร่งใส

lack of transparency - things are hidden, people cannot see what is happening, cannot see what is going on
the lack of transparency regarding the projects

That is, to seek outside loans in one lump sum rather than getting funding from annual budgets, and the lack of transparency regarding the projects.

participation - being involved in an activity (rather than merely watching it happen)
public participation 

non-existent - does not exist, there is not this thing
public participation is non-existent

implementation - actually do or carry out a plan; execution of a plan, making sure that something that is planned actually gets done นำ (แผนการ) มาบังคับใช้
implementation of a project
speedy implementation of the projects

bypass - avoid, go around
bypass public participation

for the sake of - in order to get .... , because they want to get ....
bypass public participation for the sake of speedy implementation of the projects

widespread - happening or existing in many places, or affecting many people อย่างแพร่หลาย
concern - a worry ความกังวล
widespread concern - many people are worried about it

there is a widespread concern that public participation will be bypassed for the sake of speedy implementation of the projects.

environment - the natural world of land, sea, plants, and animals
impact - an effect or influence ผลกระทบ
assessment - the process of making a judgment or forming an opinion, after considering something or someone carefully การประเมิณสถานการณ์

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) -
environmental impact assessment studies

livelihood - ways to earn money to support a family
the livelihoods of the people

rarely - not happening often นานๆ ครั้ง, ไม่บ่อย
rarely mentioned

are a must  

Environmental impact assessment studies which are a must for any projects which may affect the livelihoods of the people and the environment are rarely mentioned.

doubt - not know for sure if something is true or false, uncertain
the biggest doubt in the minds of the public

undertaking - something difficult that you do ภาระกิจ
this ambitious undertaking by the government

corruption - (See Wikipedia on bribery, political corruption)
the corruption problem

But the biggest doubt in the minds of the public about this ambitious undertaking by the government is the corruption problem.

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

implementing - turning a plan into a functioning system นำมาใช้จริง
implementing projects

in charge of -
managing some project or activity (respopnsible for)
in charge of a project
in charge of implementing projects

the transport ministry is in charge of implementing most of the rail and road projects

corruption-free - without corruption
corruption-free projects - projects without corruption
the transport minister admitted the public does not trust the projects will be corruption-free

stressed - nervous and anxious about what will happen (in the future, for example)
stressed the need for

restore - to cause a particular situation to exist again, especially a good one ฟื้นฟูสภาพ
confidence - trusting and believing in something; feel sure about something ความเชื่อม ความมั่นใจ
restore confidence

public trust
restore public trust and confidence

He also stressed the need for the government to restore public trust and confidence

graft - corruption; using political power and authority to get money illegally (take bribes) การฉ้อโกง
anti-graft

network - a large system of connected parts, organisations, people, etc. เครือข่าย
anti-graft network

scrutiny - looking at closely for errors or problems; careful examination of someone or something การใคร่ครวญอย่างละเอียด
process - a series of actions that you take in order to achieve a result แนวทางปฏิบัติ, กระบวน, วิธีการ
the scrutiny process

participate - to take part in or become involved in an activity มีส่วน
participate in the scrutiny process

the private sector's anti-graft network was invited to participate in the scrutiny process

tough - difficult to do or to deal with ยาก ยากลำบาก
tough scrutiny
projects
under tough scrutiny
projects
come under tough scrutiny

benchmark - a standard for comparison; a standard that other things can be compared to and measured by
benchmark prices

procurement - the process of buying large numbers of supplies for an organisation or company การจัดซื้อ
regulations - official rules that control the way that things are done ระเบียบปฏิบัติ  ระเบียบ ข้อบังคับ  กฎระเบียบ
procurement regulations

ensure - to make certain that something happens or is done รับรอง ให้ความมั่นใจ  ให้การยืนยัน
ensure transparency

Meanwhile, Mr Kittiratt said the projects would come under tough scrutiny based on benchmark prices set by the Finance Ministry and procurement regulations of the Prime Minister's Office to ensure transparency.

really mean it - are serious (not just words and hot air)
time will prove whether they really mean it
Well said by both Mr Kittiratt and Mr Chadchat. But time will prove whether they really mean it

issue - a problem that needs to be considered; a subject that people discuss or argue about ประเด็น
the transparency issue
the public debt issue

straightforward - clear and honest ตรงๆ ตรงไปตรงมา
if the government is more honest and straightforward on the public debt issue

populist - a politician who claims to care about the interests and opinion of ordinary people
scheme - a plan that is developed by a government or large organisation in order to provide a particular service for people แผนการ โครงการ
populist
scheme

populist rice pledging scheme
the hidden debt from the populist rice pledging scheme

state - government รัฐ
state-owned banks

concealed - hidden (put in a place where you cannot see it)
hidden debt
concealed in state-owned banks

exceed - to go beyond an official limit; to be greater than a number or amount เกินปริมาณ เกินกว่าที่กำหนด
Thailand's public debt may actually exceed 50% of GDP

Let's take the transparency issue for a start. It will be more convincing and helpful in building trust if the government is more honest and straightforward on the public debt issue, particularly the hidden debt from the populist rice pledging scheme which is concealed in state-owned banks such as the Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives. If the loss from the scheme, estimated at 170 billion baht for the first year and about 200 billion baht for the second year, is added up, Thailand's public debt may actually exceed 50% of GDP. 

stakes - the amount you gamble and might lose
high stakes - when you gamble a lot of money and might lose a lot of money

doubt -
to not believe completely in something (to question it)  ความสงสัย,
doubt the government

reason - an explanation of an event, why an event happened เหตุ ; เหตุผล ; สาเหตุ
has every reason to
has every reason to doubt - has many reasons to doubt (there are many things that make people not believe in this) 
the public has every reason to doubt the government

Because of the high stakes involved, the public has every reason to doubt the government, despite all its promises, will be able to keep corruption at a minimum.

staggering - very large
the staggering public debt

shoulder - to deal with or accept something difficult แบกรับภาระ หรือสถานการณ์
shoulder debt - to borrow more money (that you have to pay back in the future, which makes life more difficult, like carryying a heavy load on your "shoulders")
forced to shoulder debt

without any choice
shoulder debt without any choice

Mr Kittiratt must make sure the staggering public debt which we as Thais and our next generations are forced to shoulder without any choice is worth spending - every baht of it.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Jon Fernquest
Position: Online Writer