Bangkok’s new governor carries a huge burden of expectations and promises

Pursuing an ambitious agenda, Chadchart Sittipunt, 56, is set to become Bangkok’s first elected governor since the 2014 coup, after receiving a record term in the May 22 election.

The independent candidate obtained on Tuesday, May 31 the long-awaited green light from the electoral commission to take the reins of the Thai capital.

The new governor won 1.38 million votes, reflecting his popularity across the political spectrum, but he bears the burden of huge public expectations, as evidenced by his massive tenure.

The landslide victory also underscores voters’ high confidence in his professional competence to manage Bangkok’s economy.

Chadchart was transportation minister in Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s Pheu Thai Party administration before then-army chief General Prayut Chan-o-cha overthrew the government in a coup. status as of May 2014.

His experience overseeing a Cabinet portfolio could likely have worked to his advantage, as voters might have more confidence in his ability to run the city’s administration compared to a relative novice.

During the election campaign, Chadchart appealed to voters with an ambitious program to transform Bangkok. It proposed 214 policies covering nine areas: public safety, arts and creativity, environment, economy, transport, health, infrastructure and zoning, education and management.

Economic orientation

Chadchart has pledged to initiate 30 policies focusing on the grassroots economy and disadvantaged groups.

“I like the fact that its economic policies are developed at the micro level, and that they are designed to meet the needs of targeted groups. They are clear,” says Vimut Vanitcharoenthum, professor of economics at Chulalongkorn Business School.

The forces behind Chadchart’s historic victory in Bangkok

Dealing with transportation issues

Commuters, especially low-income groups, spend a large portion of their income on travel due to an inefficient public transport system that is responsible for traffic congestion and high costs.

Many Bangkokians have to use several means of transport for their daily journeys – motorcycle taxi, van, bus, skytrain or metro, and even boat – to get to their place of work.

To solve this complex problem, Chadchart has promised to increase bus services in the main and branch lines at single and cheap fares.

He explained that so far, Bangkok has focused on the main rail and bus transit routes, while the power system is limited, thus imposing a high cost on people to connect to the main system. .

Athiphat Muthitacharoen, Professor of Economics at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Economics, supports Chadchart’s ambitious project.

“I think most voters want to see an improvement in Bangkok’s public transport system, to make it easier to get around every day,” Atiphat said.

street vendors

Bangkok is famous for its street food, but many of these small businesses have been badly hit by the COVID-19 crisis over the past two years due to a sharp drop in tourism and lockdown restrictions to contain the pandemic.

Chadchart promised hawkers career stability. He considers the hawker stalls an important part of the city because they are tied to the basic economy and function as a cheap source of food, reducing the cost of living for townspeople.

He promised to help them access finance by working with public banks and private financial institutions to guarantee them low-interest loans.

Next, it intends to coordinate with the region’s private and public sectors to provide affordable rental space for vendors in need of permanent business space.

One of his plans is to support them with modern business management, working with tech volunteers in communities to help with stall operations, such as inventory and managing income and expenses. using technology.

Give a voice to street vendors

Street vendors are part of Bangkok’s unique charm, especially for foreign tourists, and a source of income for many families and small businesses. However, street vendors are sometimes blamed for traffic problems as they occupy paths in crowded areas, which worsens congestion.

Chadchart promised to give street vendors a voice. He noted that although there is a growing attempt to involve the people by including people’s representatives in the district street vendor organizing committee, most of the current committee members are still civil servants. Therefore, the actions of the committee may not be the answer to people’s needs.

He believes that organizing street vendors without the participation of local people can result in areas of street vendors that are incompatible with local identity and culture.

Chadchart said he would consider including more representatives of vendors and local people on the district street vendor organizing committee so that each area has the freedom to determine the characteristics of street vendor stalls and the number of stalls in order to maintain the cleanliness and order of the area.

He will have to listen to the opinions of local populations by adapting online technology so that the administration of public space aligns with the needs of local populations.

It plans to improve transparency by publishing information on street vendor areas, characteristics of street vendor areas, and the number and types of vendors.

He intends to seek cooperation from the private sector to support the improvement of street vendor stalls, such as colors of stalls and umbrellas.

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Access to technology

Chadchart dreams of creating a technology volunteering project, a kind of technology assistant for Bangkokians. He believes that digital literacy is essential for individuals to access benefits offered by the government, such as enrollment in the co-payment subsidy scheme, and for commercial operators, such as expanding distribution channels to online platforms.

Bangkok, in particular, is becoming an aging society with more than 1.1 million of the capital’s population over the age of 60. Seniors and the general public can miss out on important opportunities if they don’t have access to technology.

It aims to improve the standard of living of small players or disadvantaged groups. Thailand is one of the countries with the most serious economic inequalities in the world.

“Should [these future projects] lead to increased income, open up economic opportunities and access to low-interest loans, this could reduce the inequality gap,” says Vimut.

International business center

Some big companies want to see more foreign companies set up in Bangkok.

“Bangkok should be a more international city,” says Stanley Kang, chairman of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand.

As part of his economic push, Chadchart has promised to work with the Board of Investment (BOI) to attract more foreign companies. The BOI and the Department of Revenue have tried to encourage multinational companies to establish their regional headquarters and an international business center in Bangkok, providing services to its overseas associated companies.

The new governor promises to create additional infrastructure and support the search for skilled labor to facilitate international business. Among the initiatives is a one-stop service for companies needing to apply for various licenses to operate from the Thai capital.

Limited budget

Despite his innovative intentions and ideas, Chadchart will face multiple challenges, such as finding funding for these projects and seeking government cooperation through the Home Office, which has considerable authority over many areas of the country. Bangkok administration.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has in recent years had an annual budget of around 70-80 billion baht as well as a government subsidy.

“The BMA has a limited ability to collect more taxes,” Atiphat warned.

By Thai PBS World’s Business Desk

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