I have confirmed proof that the increase in the minimum daily wage has had an adverse effect on business in Bangkok, leading as well to a lack of workforce.
I know that just by driving along Rama IV Road.
Not many people in Bangkok are able to escape the traffic abomination on Rama IV and connecting thoroughfares as a result of the ongoing repairs to the Thai-Belgian Bridge. Being so centrally located, Rama IV Road, and the Thai-Belgian flyover, provide access to Bangkok's main business and commercial districts.
A Google search revealed that this steel bridge actually dates back to 1958 when it was built as an emergency bridge to help cope with the extra traffic expected for the World Expo in Brussels. It was finally taken down 25 years later when it was replaced by a tunnel. Rather than leave the disassembled bridge to rust in an open field, the Belgian government gave it to Thailand in 1988 as a symbol of the longstanding friendship between the two countries.While the foundation took a bit of preparation, the assembly of the bridge was almost magical, a construction feat that took all of one night. A Bangkok Post photographer who recorded the event still marvels about it to this day.
I suppose it's high time that the bridge is repaired. After all, it has been serving Bangkok roadsters for more than 20 years, and like any mature lady who has been exposed to the elements, there comes a time when a facelift would be much appreciated, not to mention a touch of botox here and silicone there.
Since the repairs started early last month, I have had to give myself an hour at least to get anywhere near the area. I have tried all the possible diversions _ going down Phetchaburi Road and up Asok, or finding ways not to go over the bridge but rather snake along the left inbound lane and turn right under the bridge onto Witthayu Road and vice versa.
There are also times when I just can't avoid the bridge, and just have to grit my teeth and turn up the music to jolly up the mood and while away the time.
What struck me on those particular trips was how there was absolutely no one working on the bridge.
Sorry, I take that back. On one trip I actually saw three men working on the bridge.
I tried to explain to myself that I must have caught them at a bad time, that it must have been their lunch break, or dinner break, or som tum break. Or it must have been their bedtime.
And if the increase in the minimum daily wage wasn't bad enough, how much more do you think they would have to pay for overtime? I suppose they didn't want to waste our taxpayer's money on OT. How considerate of them!
That's probably why I didn't see anyone working on the site.
But when I think of it, this seems to be a regular feature of roadworks in Thailand. The current example on my daily route is Nikhom Makkasan Road which runs alongside the Airport Rail Link. It started a couple of months ago when an excavator came in to break up the road surface on one side of the road next to the railway tracks. A few traffic cones were used to cordon off the area, and that's the way it stayed for a long time. If there are any signs indicating the details of the construction and how long it will take, I have missed them.
It was the same with Rama VI Road between Phetchaburi and Si Ayutthaya roads. The surfaces on both sides were broken up and cordoned off casually. When it rained, the whole area became a soggy mess. Then concrete drain sections were piled up by the roadside, and there they sat for another few months, while the soggy mess kept getting worse. When, finally, the road was dug up and the drainpipes were assembled, no one seemed to be interested in filling up the excavated road surface.
Metal sheets were haphazardly flung across the gaps, and cars had to gingerly make their way across, at risk of having their undersides grazed, or falling into a gap.
If I remember correctly, Rama VI Road must have taken all of six months to complete. Like the Thai-Belgian Bridge, I'm sure there must be gnomes who come out to work after midnight when no one is looking, because I certain didn't see much action during the day.
We are due for a massive 2 trillion baht infrastructure investment programme I hear. Couldn't they allocate a million of that budget _ I'm sure it won't be missed _ to hire a few more hands to work around the clock on the flyover? I'm sure they could cut down the expected construction period of three months by more than half.
For a bridge that took one night to assemble, it certainly is taking time to get a facelift.
Now that MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra has been officially installed as Bangkok governor, let's show the Belgians that we haven't lost our touch.
Usnisa Sukhsvasti is the Features Editor of the Bangkok Post.
About the author
- Writer: Usnisa Sukhsvasti
Position: Features Editor