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When age and wisdom go in different directions
Publication Date : 03-09-2013
Getting old doesn't necessarily mean that people get wiser. The same applies to countries: a long period of existence does not indicate that old countries necessarily know better than younger ones.
This year, as Singapore marks its 48th anniversary, it is embarking on a mission called "F50". In this campaign, politicians and academics and other stakeholders will be invited to join a brainstorming session to define the framework for Singapore's development. Ideas are sought for four key themes including sustainable city development.
The campaign will run for two years, and in 2015 when Singapore celebrates its 50th anniversary, the framework could be ready for implementation, to pave the way for sustainable the development of the country over the next 50 years.
I sigh, looking at Thailand. Boasting a history of 700 years going back to the Sukhothai era, Thailand is apparently still struggling in a pool of yesteryear's problems. Lacking vision, our politicians resort to old ploys, to attack opponents in an effort to gain popularity. Creativity is low, information is twisted to support claims.
Sadly, most Thais do not care for facts. They are only to ready to be pulled in this or that direction by misleading information from their favourite politicians.
No wonder Thais are beset by discouraging news. Now, two main themes prevail: parliamentary battles over legal amendments, and fears over the rising cost of living.
I have sympathy for the very poor as the Energy Ministry raises the price of cooking gas. Yet, I wonder how much the 6 baht (US$0.19) increase over a span of 12 months, eventually to 24.63 baht (US$0.77), will affect the cost of living.
Moreover, this hike will help save money for car owners, whose contribution to the Oil Fund is currently being used to subsidise the low gas price. In this regard, I support the ministry, as all are entitled to fair treatment. After all, car owners are also consumers.
Yes, Bangkok people will also suffer from higher expressway tolls, while everyone in Thailand will have to pay higher fuel tariffs during the September-December period. But in the broader scenario, the interest rate is low and should not rise until next year, and inflation should remain below 3 per cent.
Yes, we can still find more issues to show the world that Thailand is being dragged down by troubles, leading some to believe that we have no future. Globally, other countries are experiencing similar difficulties, while others are busy pushing growth.
On September 7, the decision will be made on whether Istanbul, Madrid or Tokyo will host the Summer Olympic Games in 2020. Potentially the benefits for the host city can be huge, if operational and capital budgets are managed well. Huge investment is required, primarily for construction of infrastructure, particularly transport and sporting venues, athletes' accommodation and other facilities necessary to host the Games.
Hosting an Olympics is the one of the biggest events in any city's history. Sydney is widely viewed as having staged a very successful Olympics in 2000, but Australian taxpayers have had to subsidise underused venues to the tune of about A$34 million (US$30.7 million) a year.
If it wins the bid, Tokyo proposes to spend US$3.4 billion, which will be partially covered by Olympic sponsors and ticket sales, aside from the US$1.5 billion investment in a new stadium.
According to Standard & Poor's Ratings Services, Barcelona is one of the most successful host cities for its staging of the 1992 Olympics. While the capital works that Barcelona undertook increased its debt, they lowered its subsequent investment needs and dramatically boosted the city's tourist appeal, elevating it to Europe's third most popular destination by 1999, up from 16th in 1991.
Perhaps the largest-ever Olympic loss was Montreal's, for the 1976 Games, for which capital cost overruns spun out of control, reaching more than 400 per cent of the budgeted estimates.
Thailand estimated that the World Expo 2020 would require an investment of US$3 billion. Some of the money would finance the construction of transport infrastructure in the proposed host city, Ayutthaya. The bid was aborted, though, and in due time we will know if Dubai is to win the honour of hosting the event.
I also have doubts whether a night Formula 1 race will really happen in Thailand, following opposition from this and that party. F1 is the most lucrative motor sport and it is lucky that Thailand is on the organiser's radar as the sport is expanding outside its conventional but sagging markets in Europe. Our young neighbour, Singapore, already hosts an F1 race.
Many people grow old with regrets about things they haven't done. Wisdom is gained over time and with age, accumulated through experience, but it can be impeded by a lack of opportunities or sickness. If Thailand is likened to a person, it could be a hospital patient weeping while being treated for so many diseases.