Suggestions on Thai Motorway Development1

Recently, I was honored by the Inter-City Motorways Division, Department of Highways to be a keynote speaker for a seminar held on the topic of “Co-thinking & Co-planning for the Future of Thai Motorways”. This event was convened under a project to identify strategies for the development of motor expressways connecting different cities of Thailand.
This project involves an investment of 2.1 billion baht over a ten year time frame (from 2017 to 2027), with development of a total of twenty-one expressways for a total distance of 6,612 kilometers covering each region of the country.
 
Implementation of the project will also have an impact, both positive and negative, on the lives of a great number of people. For this reason, careful consideration needs to be given to each of the proposed inter-city expressways, or “motorways” before going ahead with their implementation. In actual fact, I suggest that we need to choose other forms of communication infrastructure, such as rail or waterway systems, which may provide an additional or in some combination a better alternative to motorways.
 
Nevertheless I will propose several different ideas regarding implementation of the expressway development project, which I hope will benefit the country. They are as follows:

1) Create institutionalization among all stakeholders of the project and ensure that there is real participation in implementation of the project
 
When carrying out mega projects in the past, there were efforts to promote stakeholder participation and enable them to voice their opinions.  The problem was that the government’s idea of listening was just a token effort, and they didn’t really take notice of what people had to say.  Also, people’s agreement or disagreement would be based on specific bits of information, without seeing the whole picture, which led to decisions that weren’t always to their best advantage.
 
Creating institutionalization among stakeholders will enable clearer identification of various stakeholder groups.  It will provide a mechanism for people’s opinions to be heard.  It will also create a means for providing people with the full information covering what they need to know before making decisions. 
 
Moreover, there will be a means for making it clear who will, or will not, benefit from the project once it is in operation. For example, stakeholders will have opportunities to invest in the project and share in the profits if the project generates a profit, and share the expenses should the project be unsuccessful.  This will make it possible for real participation of the general public in the project, and will reduce any friction in project implementation.
 
2) Develop an Impact Composite Index to ensure that all possible impacts of the project have been carefully considered 
 
The study of mega projects in the past was done within specific aspects such as to only study either the impact to the environment, the social impact of the project, or its worthiness to the economy.
 
Thereby, from past studies of the specific aspects of a project, one might not see the overall impact, and whether the results of the project were successful or not.
 
3) In order to decrease social conflicts, create a mechanism for those who benefit from the project to assist those who are negatively impacted by the project
 
When the motorways project has been implemented in any area, the adjacent land in that area will increase in value (windfall gain). Land that was previously of no value will be of increased economic value.
 
This benefit arises from the project implemented by the government.  
 
Therefore, those who benefit should not be the only ones to profit, and they should return some of those benefits to the government in different forms, such as establishing welfare funds that can be used to help those who may receive a negative impact from the project, according to the principle of social equality, which will also help minimize any opposition to the project.
 
4) Integration of the Motorways Development Plan with the Transport Development Plan, the Economic Development Plan and National Development Plan in order to ensure that resources are used efficiently and to the maximum benefit 
 
In the past, Thailand hasn’t integrated work plans, leading to duplication in project implementation. The Expressway Authority of Thailand’s plan to build motorways covering every region of the country might overlap with other projects being implemented by the Highways Department2.  Thus, if we can carefully plan ahead to integrate all of our development plans, the country will receive the greatest benefits from these projects. The project will lead to multiple benefits beyond its own logistics (“externality”), not just transportation logistics will benefit, but the motorways will result in benefits in other dimensions as well.
 
The Highway Department and other concerned government agencies should consider the benefits that will be realized in regard to the economy, community, agricultural sector, service sector, education sector, science and technology sector, cultural sector, ICT, the areas around the motorways, solution of flooding problems, and international relations.

5) Applying the Dr. Dan Can Do 8E Model of Management Strategies as a framework in project management to ensure prudence in all aspects
 
In the past, management only focused on efficiency and effectiveness. In my opinion, that’s not sufficient, so I would like to suggest the concept of the 8E’s Efficacy Model of Management Strategies, which can ensure truly successful and efficient management of any project. The 8E’s consist of:
     1. Input: Efficiency – The resources must be used efficiently.
     2. Process: Excellence – The process must be excellent.
     3. Output: Effectiveness – The final product is of good quality according to the indicators.
     4. Outcome: Esteemed valuableness – Expected results are achieved.
     5. Outdo: Aesthetic worthiness – Select the most valuable project that produces the greatest value.
     6. Outburst: Exponentially – Multiplies the benefits of the project exponentially.
     7. Outbound: Externally – Multiply the results in dimensions external to the project.
     8. Outlast: Eschatonicity We must think about different ways of transport communication and the various models which will come along in the future so that the benefits of the project will be sustainable in the future beyond the present time. 
 
I believe that infrastructure development will have a great effect on the development of the country in general. For that reason we need to be thoughtful and take careful steps in designing our motorways in order to come up with the best motorway system that meets the needs of Thai people. We must ensure that the completed project will bring about the greatest benefits to our people as well as our country.
 
1 Translated from the Thai version of “ข้อเสนอแนะในการพัฒนามอเตอร์เวย์ไทย” by Kriengsak Chareonwongsak published in Mix Magazine, September 2017. 
2 Manager Online (20 October 2014). “Big Jin” orders Bangkok to review expansion of expressways in regard to overlap with motorways in fear of wasting budget. Accessed 10 July 2016 from http://www.manager.co.th/iBizChannel/ViewNews.aspx?NewsID=9570000120461
 

Kriengsak Chareonwongsak
Senior Fellow at Harvard University's Center of Business and Government.
kriengsak@kriengsak.comhttp://www.kriengsak.com