OUR READERS’ VIEWS: Decentralization of power

Disclaimer: Our survey is entirely unscientific and is only meant to be indicative of the opinions held by The Isaan Record readership.

In terms of government, decentralization of power requires the transfer of decision-making power and accountability to local authorities. Whether certain provinces would group together to form sub-regional blocs for the sake of practicality still remains a moot point, though the question of whether the country’s governance would benefit from decentralization along federalist lines is an interesting one.

The survey focused on three core issues for government: taxation, governance, and public services. It offered respondents the option of maintaining the status quo, going for a solution that is somewhat evenly compromised between the central and local government, and a third way which wrested control of all three pillars from the clutches of central government and placed them largely in the purview of local government. There were 33 responses in total.

Taxation
None of our respondents were in favor of keeping things as they are when it comes to taxation, with 100% of tax revenue from the provinces going to Bangkok. Under the current model the central government keeps the lion’s share for central government spending and returns the remainder to the provinces for Bangkok-approved spending.

About two-thirds voted for reversing this state of affairs by letting provinces keep the lion’s share of the taxes that they collect for discretionary spending.

Just over a third of respondents would still prefer all tax revenue to go to Bangkok for allocation, with the caveat that provinces should have more authority on how they can spend their allotted budgets.

Governance
Once again nobody wanted keep things as they are; continuing to require central-government approval for all provincial decision-making received zero votes from our readers.

A third voted for some local matters remaining under the control of central government with devolution for some as-yet unspecified things.

Two-thirds think that provincial administrations should be empowered to deal with provincial matters without interference from the central government.

Public Services
The pattern of wanting do away with the status quo continues with public services. Nobody agreed that central government should continue to be responsible for providing all public services such as education, healthcare, police, public transport, infrastructure, etc. nationwide.

Just under a third wanted the central government to share some of the responsibility for providing the aforementioned public services with provincial administrations.

The remainder of respondents would rather see these public services being accountable to provincial administrations, with central government taking the backseat in a more regulatory role, such as to ensure that national standards are met throughout the provinces.

Age
Going by the age range of The Isaan Record respondents, decentraliszation of power appears to matter most to people in their 40’s, followed by those in their 50’s and their 20’s.

Gender
Over 80% of the survey respondents were male, about 15% female and 3% who identify with a gender other than male or female.

Language
Roughly a fifth of the responses were in English, with the rest in Thai.

If the overall results of this survey are anything to go by, the status quo has had its day. As it stands, local authorities are rarely accountable to the local public but answer instead to their respective ministers in Bangkok. If people in the provinces do not feel that Bangkok is accountable to them, who can blame them for demanding decentralization of power?