A taxing issue

Re: "Finance minister doubts sodium tax", (Business, Dec.4)

"The perils of overconsumption", (Life, Dec 4) in the same issue of the Bangkok Post should be handy for the finance minister.

I wish only to add that changing people's behaviour is very hard indeed. The latest strategy, according to Dr Thomas R Frieden, former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is "Changing the context to make individuals' default decisions healthy". The defining characteristic of this tier of intervention is that individuals would have to expend significant effort not to benefit from them.

Tax is one of the effective measures, as evidenced in the case of cigarette smoking.

Amnach Sriratanaban

Asean pivot

Re: "Watch out for Asean's new Indo-Pacific", (Opinion, Dec 4).

Kavi Chongkittavorn's piece on Asean's new Indo-Pacific role, although interesting, leaves key questions unanswered about any pragmatic future.

When it started, the organisation made clear it respected each country's sovereignty. But this has led Asean to become more of a talking shop that avoids tackling the conflicts between countries. And this talking shop now wants to take in even the UK, German and French leaders.

Instead, Indonesia wants Asean to get more active on such specific issues as maritime cooperation, regional connectivity, and sustainable development.

And other goals get tossed around too, in the article.

But each goal has a challenge that gets ignored here.

For example, prosperity is put forward, in a group with enormous inequalities. So, Singaporeans earn US$57,000, while Myanmar people earn just $1,298. So what should Asean nations do about this -- take from one nation and give to poorer ones, or what?

Also, they talk about "transparency" but avoid tackling the widespread corruption that exists among these nations, that slowly saps future growth.

These are the important concrete but difficult goals that Asean needs to have the courage to face realistically if it is to have an effective future.

Gerry Popplestone

War on plastic

As a visitor from Singapore to Bangkok, I was initially heartened to learn about "green day" on Dec 4, when a whole day is dedicated to discouraging the use of single-use plastic bags.

Alas, my disappointment when I observed that publicity seems to be lacking, especially at market places. For instance, when I was at Mae Klong Railway Market, I did not see any publicity there regarding the "no plastic bags" drive. The use of plastic bags was still rampant. Shopkeepers were still dishing out plastic bags for customers. Even for me, as much as I would like to avoid the use of plastic bags for my purchases, it was hard to do so as many items on display were already pre-packed in plastic bags.

Given the reputation of the railway market as a place of interest for visitors, it was a missed opportunity for authorities to publicise and showcase to international visitors there that the country is serious about its war against plastic bags.

In fact, if not for the Post's editorial yesterday and relevant press coverage, one might not have known about the green day. The relevant authorities definitely need to shore up their efforts in the fight against use of plastic bags.

Sean Lim

Rats resign

Re: "NACC assets probe sparks resignations", (BP, Dec 4).

Since the NACC announced new rules requiring financial disclosures for health sector bureaucrats, a number of rats have resigned. As I've written before, a fully funded and professionally staffed forensic accounting department would help address this. Together with strict rules for regular asset declarations for all politicians, officials, police and military, the systemic corruption in Thailand could be brought to heel.

But in a clear sign of Thais disdain for morality when it comes to money, not one of my letters on this subject has ever made it into print.

Michael Setter

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