Public deserves answers over expo bid failure

Public deserves answers over expo bid failure

The government has gone quiet over the country's failure to remain in the running to host the 2020 World Expo.

That is rather unlike the media-savvy and reactive Pheu Thai Party-led government we know.

So we missed out on the chance to stage this world event. Let's leave it at that. Pity us. End of conversation. Fait accompli. Move on.

But hold your horses. We can't be so dismissive of this.

As the tourism-dependent country that we are, we should be driven by instinct to seize a golden opportunity to showcase ourselves when one comes along.

Being told our name had been dropped from the list of contenders left us in disbelief. Explanations are in order and they had better be irrefutable.

So far all we've heard is something like the sound of a buck being passed.

Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul's explanation of the bid's failure was fact mixed with myth.

He repeated what we already knew _ that we were excluded from the hosting nomination because the government did not formally endorse the bid within the time frame allowed.

He said that was because the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau was unprepared and lacked information about the proper procedures.

Really? I find that odd, if not farfetched.

Was there no working calendar that would have enabled the government to keep track of its progress in preparing information? Was no one prompted by Government House that the deadline for the bid confirmation was fast approaching? Surely, the panic alarm should have been blaring.

Several days lapsed before Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra broke her silence and expressed her regret over the failed nomination. The government had done its best under the circumstances, she said.

A lot of frustrated people believe the premier's remark lacked context and was unfitting. It would have been excusable for the government to have claimed it had "done its best" had the bid been put forth to the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE) and Ayutthaya had been outdone by another competitor.

But as it stands, we didn't even get to the first round, and the critics have had a field day taunting the government for seemingly throwing in the towel before the contest began.

The World Expo is a pot of gold for any host country and a showcase for promoting a national brand.

It runs for months and generates many jobs. Often, some of the structures and pavilions built to house the various country's exhibitions become permanent fixtures. A fine example is the Nepal Peace Pagoda, which stands as a reminder of the 1988 expo in Brisbane, Australia.

We might well have been a frontrunner in the race to host the 2020 event and 400 million baht had been set aside to pay for a feasibility study and public relations campaigns. There was even talk of improving the transport infrastructure that serves Ayutthaya.

Without a shadow of a doubt, the possibility of Thailand hosting the expo had been much anticipated. Expectations were high.

It has been argued that the bid may have been deliberately bungled because of some political motive. The Democrat Party trumpeted its ambition to organise the expo on Thai soil but did not stay in office long enough to see it through. Pheu Thai was reluctant to let its foe take the credit and so shot the project down, critics claim.

But few who have initiated a project have ever outshone those who implemented it and made it a success. Pheu Thai would barely have had to lift a finger _ simply mailing the bid endorsement envelope to the BIE along with its seal of approval.

It could then have basked in easy glory allowing the bid to proceed through the nomination process safe in the knowledge that the odds were in Thailand's favour.

Instead of cashing in on the publicity and public excitement, the government is now being accused of being too relaxed about the endorsement submission deadline.

For some reason it was willing to go against the grain even though the failure could deal a blow to its credibility. And the last thing the government needs right now, as it comes under fire from all directions, is more bad news.

Was it a paperwork blunder that cost us our shot at being considered to put together the mighty World Expo? That is the question and the matter may even go beyond the prime minister.

Kamolwat Praprutitum is an assistant news editor, Bangkok Post.

Kamolwat Praprutitum

Bangkok Post assistant news editor

Kamolwat Praprutitum is an assistant news editor, Bangkok Post.

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