Thailand needs 'organised' corruption

Thailand needs 'organised' corruption

Investors, local and foreign, understand corruption. It’s a natural extension of the economy. It can’t be avoided. But it can be dealt with.

Investors prefer organised corruption to disorganised corruption. They would like to know who needs to be paid, and once paid they like things to get done. This is organised corruption. The key is, only one group should be paid. No more.   

In Thailand, the problem is the payments never stop. New faces always come to collect, old faces keep getting hungry again, and you’ve got to pay them all.  

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Over the past 20 years, most of the times corruption in Thailand has been a gangbang. It keeps going. It doesn’t stop. And, then, maybe only half the work gets done.  

Here’s a firsthand story. Once upon a time there was a famous Hollywood director filming in Thailand. It was a movie about a bisexual Greek general who tried to conquer the known world over 2,000 years ago.

Being a fan of the drinks and the ladies, of which we have plenty, the director quite enjoyed working in Thailand. But he also swore to the gods that he would never film a movie in this country again. Why? Because the payments never stop.  

There were always new faces showing up to collect their tea money, and even old faces keep asking for more.  

This director understood greed. After all, in one of his most famous movies the main antagonist did proclaimed this famous line, ‘’Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures, the essence of the evolutionary spirit.’’  

 Well, this was before the director experienced Thai greed.  

Investors know that to invest in Thailand, they have to prepare a special budget for corrupt politicians and officials. But it’s very difficult for the accountant to prepare a tea money budget when corruption is so disorganised.  

Foreign investors often marvel at Thailand’s resilience, or luck, or a combination of both, even while at the same time making complaints about the kingdom.  

Given that we are notorious for corruption and inefficiency, our economy continues to push through in even the worst of times. Take the last decade of political upheavals, natural disasters and worldwide economic melt down.  

But it isn’t going to last forever without some drastic changes, especially with the beating the Thai economy has been taking of late. 

If there’s capitalism, then there’s corruption, especially in a developing country. The two go together like a horse and carriage.    

There is no getting rid of corruption; no one understands this better than investors, local or foreign. But again, make it organised corruption (and keep it to a minimum), rather than a disorganised one.  

Voranai Vanijaka

Bangkok Post columnist

Voranai Vanijaka is a columnist, Bangkok Post.

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