Term limits should stay
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Term limits should stay

The Move Forward Party has vowed to start working on decentralising authority within 100 days of assuming power.

This plan, which is one of the 23 items in the deal signed by members of the MFP-led coalition, aims to transfer the power to pick projects and allocate budgets to local bodies, to better meet the needs of local communities.

The push will entail the election of provincial governors, and dissolution of regional administrations, in the hope of ensuring fairer budget allocations which are based on actual demand.

To advance this policy, the MFP, which secured the highest number of MPs in the recent election, met executives from three associations -- the Provincial Administration Organization Council of Thailand, the National Municipal Association of Thailand and the Subdistrict Administration Organization of Thailand.

While the idea is admirable, other governments in the past have advocated a similar move. The biggest challenge is how the MFP plans to address the pervasive corruption within local administrations.

A recent controversy involving the procurement of streetlamps by several local administration agencies in Samut Prakan is a case in point. Despite claims of legality, these decorative lamps were significantly overpriced.

During the discussion between MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat and the associations, their executives sought the ability to review the term limit for local leaders, which are set at two terms of four years each. They suggested that voters should decide whether to re-elect them or not.

Considering the prevalence of corruption in local administration bodies, it is not advisable to lift the tenure limit. Conflicts of interest are so pervasive with many chiefs or their relatives owning construction firms or other businesses in their local areas.

Consequently, incidents of shootings due to unresolved conflicts and personal animosity regularly make the headlines.

While decentralisation can be beneficial, it is important to acknowledge that it is not a panacea for all problems.

Given the MFP's plan to increase budget allocations for local administration bodies, policies that promote transparent use of the budget and combat corruption are crucial.

Unfortunately, the MFP's policy lacks clarity on how local bodies will ensure transparent use of funds and prevent corruption.

According to an anti-graft expert, corruption in state projects often begins at the stage when local politicians seek budgets.

If the tenure limit for local administration leaders were lifted, it could potentially strengthen corruption networks in certain areas, particularly where public participation and anti-graft mechanisms are weak.

Proposed elections for governor do not guarantee transparency and accountability, especially as there are influential interest groups which have held power for a prolonged period in certain areas.

Currently, some leaders at various local administrative levels, ranging from the tambon level to the provincial level, are elected. However, corruption still persists in local areas.

Limiting the tenure of local leaders promotes accountability, minimises the opportunity for long-term corruption, encourages a competitive environment and promotes participatory democracy.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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