BANGKOK, May 10, 2012 --- While Thailand’s sustained economic growth has resulted in a remarkable reduction in poverty, economic growth and public services have been concentrated in the central region and Bangkok. The next key development challenge for Thailand is to provide more equitable access to quality public services across the entire country, says The Thailand Public Finance Management Report: Improving Service Delivery, launched today.
Significant reform efforts over the past decade have focused on the structure and revenues of local governments. While making these changes the government has also been very successful at maintaining macroeconomic stability. However, there are significant regional disparities in public spending and provision of public services. Fiscal policy and the inter-governmental fiscal framework can play a central role in providing more equitable and comparative access to public services across the country.
The Thailand Public Finance Management Report: Improving Service Delivery provides a comprehensive picture of expenditure patterns at the regional level, identifies issues impeding the delivery of comparable equitable services, and provides options for improving the delivery of public services at the local level through more effective, efficient, and accountable delivery of public services across the country.
One impediment to equitable service delivery identified by the report is the concentration of expenditures in areas with high economic activity. This has contributed to disparities in service delivery to the regions and has resulted in unequal human development outcomes.
“Public spending can counteract regional disparities in provision of public services, which in turn contribute to improving human development and inequality. Thailand’s expenditure policy can be refocused towards service delivery-deficient areas to bring them up to good standards or like what can be seen in Bangkok,” says Shabih Mohib, World Bank Senior Economist and team leader of the report.
Another issue identified in the report is that the central-local government relations system can be made more efficient and provide more accountable services to citizens.
Moving to a fully integrated unitary decentralized system of government and administrative consolidation of small LAOs into larger and more financially viable units can make the central-local government relations more efficient. Local authorities can also be incentivized to deliver quality public services through adjustment of the intergovernmental fiscal transfer system.
Current monitoring and evaluation systems can be further improved to provide the information needed for appropriate central monitoring or for fostering local accountability and participation.
“Providing comparable access to quality public services across the country is a key development challenge for Thailand as it transitions from a middle income country to a high income country. The Thailand Public Management Report: Improving Service Delivery aims to promote a healthy debate on how Thailand’s next development challenge can be tackled”, said Annette Dixon, World Bank Country Director for Thailand, “We look forward to continued close collaboration as the Royal Thai Government, public policy experts and national development practitioners articulate Thailand’s future course in its reform efforts” .
Thailand Public Management Report: Improving Service Delivery was produced by the World Bank in collaboration with the Government of Thailand. It is the product of a major analytical review, conducted over two years, of how Thailand’s public financial management supports service delivery at central and local levels. Local government officials and scholars in Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Chiang Mai, Khon Khaen, Udon Thani, Surat Thani, international experts, and other provinces across Thailand contributed to the findings of the study.