Songsidh Piriyarangsan’s research into civil service corruption, which he estimates to be costing the country between Bt50 billion and Bt100 billion in 2018 alone, is highly commendable. The handmaiden of corruption is inefficiency and because many senior civil servants are focused on feathering their nests, they tend to structure projects and whole departments in a way that furthers their personal financial ambitions to the detriment of efficiency and the people they pledge to serve.
It is impossible to measure the economic effects of inefficiency in the bureaucracy but they must be enormous. Just looking at the Education Ministry provides some insight. It now gobbles up the largest single share of the national budget, but evidence from Pisa scores suggests that Thai education is now close to the worst in the region, including neighbouring countries with lower per capita GDP, such as the Indochina nations.
So what happens to the massive budget consumed by the Education Ministry that yields such poor results for the people? The answer must be that it is largely wasted due to inefficiency and corruption. One of the main problems seems to be a lack of decentralisation, with the lion’s share of resources spent on a bloated educational bureaucracy in Bangkok. Meanwhile, Thailand is squandering its human resources by failing to provide adequate state education and falling further and further behind in international competitiveness. This inevitably amounts to a serious constraint on the country’s long-term sustainable growth rate.