When one is going to spend about US$60 billion on a project, like Thailand‘s high speed rail plan, one knows one is going to run into those shouting “No Way, Too Risky” and those who are going to be already “Dreaming” like about traveling from Bangkok to Pattaya or Khao Yai, in half an hour. Thailand’s elite establishment, of course, being mostly Bangkok centric, with Bangkok seen as the center of the universe is doing the usual, “Conservative” and “Austerity” based number crunching, to point out that the high speed train, is a crazy expensive toy and they just love Thailand the way it is. On the other side, are of course, those who are growth oriented, touting their “Expansionism” and “Progressive” thinking, laying the foundation for the future type of thinking, saying forget just thinking about Bangkok, but Thailand as a whole has to move forward.
The concept of high speed train, as the Yingluck‘s government has laid out, with relating the concept, to globalist level and to local level, argues very convincingly, in favor of spending on the system. And yet, equally, the Thai elite establishment has laid out the “Fear Factor” namely that Thailand’s public debt to GDP is going to go up from 44% of GDP to about 50% of GDP, and this, to many, is equally convincing.
The problem for people who are neutral is, what is the correct way to think, about this US$ multi billion project? In simple terms, one would probably want to calculate out the cost and benefit, and see if the high speed train is worth the risk and opportunities. But the fact is, this cost and benefit approach at addressing the spending, is impossible. The high speed train project, is just like building new roads, as it is mainly a project to serve the public and increase Thailand’s logistics competitiveness, and that is all about what it is, subjects, that putting a dollar figure on it, for a risk and benefit approach, is near impossible.
Yet there is another argument, in that the Yingluck government, won an election landslide, and that gave Yingluck the mandate to govern Thailand. Looking back, Yingluck’s high speed train, looks a great deal like the various Thaksin‘s populous policies, when he also got the mandates from the Thai people to govern Thailand. The elite establishment, is trying to stop Yingluck’s high speed train, is just the same thing as the elite establishment tried to stop Thaksin’s populous policies.
Thailand, as a very conservative country for a very long time, is filled with people who are not capable of dreaming any more. Just look at the Thailand Developmental Research Institute (TRDI) that when Thaksin came out with his now UN lauded, universal health care scheme, said this Thaksin policy will bankrupt Thailand. Many, like Nation Media Group, called Thaksin’s populous policies “Wet Dreams.”
Even today, as many engage in this debate, about the high speed train, it falls along partisan line, mostly, just arguing about beliefs, with very little fact. I recently met a Stanford University graduated Thai, for example, where Stanford University is located in California, who turned to me and said, quote: “Even the USA has stopped its ambition to build a high speed train.” I was just caught off guard, as if I am not wrong, California, just approved the building of the first phase of its San Francisco to Los Angeles high speed train project. Then he said, look at Spain, most advance at high speed train, and look where it is economically.
I felt like arguing with the Stanford University graduate. But I decided not to. All I did, was to sit, and think about a few weeks earlier, when I was vacationing at Khao Yai, and though about how great it would be, if I can get from Bangkok to Khao Yai, in half an hour. Escaping Bangkok’s capture of me, to a different world, would be so easy. But with the establishment trying to stop the high speed train, maybe it is a dream for my children to have.
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