Science focus lacking

Re ''The government's bad science'' (BP, May 19).

Sutipunt Bongsununt's letter lamenting the near dearth of government spending on science was food for thought. Thai comparative prowess in science is on a par with its university students' English-speaking abilities. But it's not just the current government which is dropping the ball. Education institutions including those in the private sector put little focus on science.

Where are the scholarships or workshops that businesses could offer? As for municipalities, a city like Pattaya can sponsor a kissing marathon or a katoey beauty contest, but can't lift a finger to assist budding scientists.

Where will tomorrow's technical innovations come from? From Europe, the US, and Japan (among others), as usual, but doubtful they'll come from Thailand.

Somewhat related: In the first quarter of 2013, can you guess which company sold the most luxury cars in the USA? Was it Lexus, or BMW or Mercedes or Audi? No, none of the above. The best-selling luxury car was an upstart made by Tesla (California), whose electric car was also named ''Car of the Year'' by Motor Trend magazine.

Could young Thai engineers join innovators to develop all sorts of alternative energy creations for the future? They have good brains, but unfortunately, they don't have much support from the government or the business sector.

Chiang Rai

Let's settle for upgrades

I have been reading and hearing about the flood prevention project and the high-speed rail project for many weeks.

My question is who will actually benefit from these projects?

The flood project will certainly benefit many people if it is carried out in a scientific and well-engineered way (bring in engineers from Dutch organisations who really know how to manage water systems).

However, a great deal could be achieved simply by cleaning and dredging existing river and irrigation systems, at far less cost.

As for the high-speed rail, I really cannot see that it will benefit the majority of people outside the Bangkok elite.

Upgrading the railway system into a safe, reliable form of transport would be a lot cheaper and benefit a much bigger cross-section of Thais.

The government should look closely at China's safety record with high-speed rail before committing to contracts.

The money saved on these projects could overhaul Thailand's out-of-date electrical supply system, particularly in towns and cities.

Put the cables underground. It looks better and is also safer.

Done correctly, far less maintenance is required in the long run.


Transport push crucial

Re: ''A lot to pay back'' (PostBag, May 20).

The negatives of the 2-trillion-baht infrastructure project have been cited repeatedly: exposure to corruption, high interest costs, and a potential danger to the environment.

Definitely, there will be corruption, otherwise it is not a Thai project. One can only pray for a low level of corruption.

No investment in transport systems is profitable in the short- or medium-term. But, in the long term, we can accept the cost if the project can improve the quality of life.

Concern over high interest rates to service borrowing on this scale is understandable. But if interest costs are likely to be lower than inflation, we may benefit from this difference, not to mention the increase in economic value and advancement of technology that will accrue to Thailand.

As for environmental concerns, they can be fixed. The Shinkansen bullet train running with Mount Fuji in the background is now a familiar sight.

In sum, this is the right time to move when we have the advantage of a strong baht. The investment will stabilise baht fluctuations and help our exporters.


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