April 22, 1997
The World Bank is partly to blame for the plight of villagers affected by the Pak Moon dam, a bank expert said yesterday. Resettlement specialist Warren Wicklin III said the bank may have failed to obtain full information on the project when it was proposed to the bank for financing which is one reason why affected villagers did not receive adequate compensation. “It’s possible the Thai government withheld information that could have had a negative impact on our decision-making but it’s also our fault that we didn’t try to obtain correct and enough information either,” he said. Mr Wicklin is in Thailand on the first leg of his globe-trotting mission to evaluate all World Bank-funded dams in terms of success in resettling people affected by their construction. While in Thailand he will meet affected villagers, academics and government officials to assess the situation. He questioned the economic worthiness of Pak Moon when the bank approved financing for the project. “There were different reasons behind the bank’s decision to support the dam. At the time our study showed the project would yield high economic returns as it (the loan) was for generating power. Thailand was growing fast and in need of more energy,” Mr Wicklin explained. “But when the project got off the ground, the costs rose. By the time the dam was completed it wasn’t probably worth the investment any more,” he added. Speaking to representatives of the Forum of the Poor, Mr Wicklin noted it was very hard for the bank to grant the government more loan to pay compensation to the villagers. “If the Thai government had included the issue when it first asked for loan, things would have been easier,” he said. Responding to the forum as to why the World Bank failed to think of educational or cultural loans, Mr Wicklin said such loans only became part of the bank’s policy later. “We’re lending more money for such purposes and started becoming more cautious in extending loans for development projects.” he said. He dismissed the forum’s claim that all dam projects were bad, saying it varied from dam to dam. “It’s my job to find out if each project works and why and how. What’s good and bad. What we can and should do about it,” he pointed out, dismissing the forum’s claim that all dam projects were bad.