The Highway to Inequality

The Highway to Inequality


What does equality mean to you? At a ceremony to launch a rental housing project for low-income families, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said last Friday:

"Today the government is working on two fronts. Every Thai person should have access to roads and bridges, and whatever benefits that they get from the infrastructural system. Rich people should pay (to use expressways) while low-income people use the lower roads so there won't be congestion. This is how I think. This is equality of access to travel opportunities in my opinion."

Neither timely nor sound speech, given the occasion, if you ask me.

His statement has been met with overwhelming online ire as many disagree with his version of equality. With all due respect as always, I find his way of thinking concerning especially when he's supposed to be our leader.

In my humble opinion, I think equality or social equality means anyone from any layer of social strata should have equal access to certain public goods and social services. His statement seems to suggest otherwise. Mind you, I'm not saying that expressway users shouldn't have to pay a satang for more convenience and to lessen their travel time.

These two types of highways are different. Use the normal roads if you're not in hurry. Pay toll to use expressways because you want to reach your destination faster (and curse less while driving). It's in the name. However, a high fee shouldn't become an obstacle to prevent certain groups of people to use a service, if we're going to work our way towards equality.

Shouldn't everyone be able to choose to use either road or expressway, depending on their situation? And when the need comes, shouldn't they all be able to afford the expressway fees without sacrificing one-third of the daily minimum wage. I mean 80 baht to go on an expressway to get to Don Mueang isn't exactly affordable.

With all due respect again, isn't it the government's job to provide people with better and affordable access to public services. Thus, a step closer to equality. Better yet, shouldn't a government work hard on providing better roads and public transport for us all as the first priority. Or find a way to increase incomes so all can afford expressway tolls when the need be.

By suggesting that rich people should pay to enjoy better services and low-income people should be content with lesser options sounds like avoiding responsibility in narrowing the inequality gap and uplifting the quality of life for all.

This kind of mindset only exacerbates inequality in Thai society. g

Pornchai Sereemongkonpol

Guru section Editor

Guru section Editor

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