The flood in the capital last Thursday, 2 October, caused madness and mayhem. It wasn’t the first time, nor will it be the last. Present-day flooding is very much the same as when we were children, 30 or 40 years ago. Except, the pollution and the congestion is worse, and more garbage.
According to the American human resource consulting firm, Mercer’s 2019 quality of living index, Bangkok ranks 133 globally. Asian cities that rank above us include Singapore (25), Tokyo (71), Seoul (77), and Taipei (84).
In ASEAN, other than Singapore, Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur (85) and Johor Bahru (101) slap us silly.
Though we thought we were competing against Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan in the early 1990s, we have come to accept that we are no match. But the real stinker is, not only Kuala Lumpur beats us, but also Johor Bahru, a city most Thais never even heard of.
According to the crowd-sourced global database Numebo’s quality of life index for mid-20202, Bangkok ranks 227, beaten by Chiang Mai at 158.
While Mercer’s report is for expats life, encompassing, safety and politics, etc., Numbebo looks at local living such as affordability, pollution, healthcare, traffic, etc.
Of course, we are the world’s top destination for a vacation. But for having a life, it’s a different story.
Big and bloated
The following statistics come from the program มองโลกมองไทย.
The office of the Governor of Bangkok is 47 years old, and we have had 16 governors. Seven came for democratic elections, totaling 31 years and four months in office. Nine was appointed by authoritative power, as with the incumbent Governor Police General Aswin Kwanmuang, totaling 15 years and three months in office.
The longest reign over Bangkok is the Democrat party. Its candidates were in charge of Bangkok totaling 13 years and ten months. The now-defunct Palang Dharma Party was in charge for ten years and five months.
According to 2015 numbers, Bangkok has an annual budget of 100 billion baht to run an operation that requires 97,000 bureaucrats, 14,331 teachers, 10,221 garbage collectors/ street sweepers, 3,200 municipality officers, 2,608 doctors and nurses, and 66,932 classified as “others.”
That’s twice the workforce required to run Seoul, South Korea, another capital city of equivalent population, roughly ten million people each.
The annual budget for Bangkok’s bureaucrats’ bonus is 2.3 billion baht. For their training and development, it is 200 million baht. For their local and oversea field trips, it is 66 million baht.
Ain’t that a shame
Here we are, in the city that, for the past 20 years, was supposed to be the “hub of this” and the “hub of that” rather than just the “hub of prostitution.”
There’s a long list of reasons why Bangkok fails to compete as a world’s capital, or even as Asia’s or ASEAN’s capital.
If you’re General Prayut Chan-o-cha, you will blame Thaksin, Yingluck, and Thanatorn, also naughty children, nation-haters, and COVD-19.
If you’re superstitious, you will blame a prophecy foretold of how the Thai kingdom would fall. The only solution is a daily mass prayer and merit-making to summon the great spirit of Phra Siam Devadhiraj, and all the other thousands of holy deities, Hindu and Buddhist, that we worship to save us and Make Thailand Great Again.
You will also demand a stop to the pro-democracy protests, as these demonstrations disturb the great deities’ tranquility and upset our national karma.
You will also believe voting for “good people” is a must.
But if you look at the big and bloated bureaucracy, then you will slap a knee and spit out your tobacco, exclaiming, “gaddummit, ain’t that shame…”
Do the right thing
The change needed is a systematic overhaul of the way we do things. But life isn’t a fairy tale where a snap of the finger can turn a pumpkin into a stagecoach fits for a princess and her glass slippers.
But there can be a step towards change.
There are serious talks of a Bangkok governor election. If it indeed will happen (yes, a democratic election in Thailand is not a routine, but a “wish list of “if”), then perhaps we should learn the lesson of the 2019 general election.
Let’s put the “right” person on the job. “Right,” meaning vision, ability, and sincerity.
Instead of the “good” person who will continue you to muck things up royally. “Good,” meaning, “they told me he’s a good man, so I vote for him.”