Former ASEAN chief urges UN to study Sufficiency Economy

TF1An economic theory and philosophy on living developed by Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej can help people in the developing world adapt to globalization and should be studied by the United Nations, a former leader of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations told a meeting of UNESCO and UNCTAD representatives in Paris last week.

The King of Thailand’s constitute “one modality [for] many communities and states and countries around the world looking for an alternative way of moving forward in the process of globalization,” said Surin Pitsuwan, former Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and a past Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand.

The theories developed by King Bhumibol, Thailand’s constitutional monarch and the world’s longest reigning monarch, are known as the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy. The King introduced the philosophy, based on his decades of first-hand experience working to uplift poor communities, during a speech in the aftermath of the 1997 economic crisis that roiled Thailand, Asia and beyond.

The United Nations Development Program wrote of the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy in 2007 that, “what gave King Bhumibol’s thinking its special character was its practicality and its viewpoint. He looked at development from the angle of the ordinary people.” The philosophy, based on elements of Buddhist economics, is increasingly in alignment with calls from many quarters for development to be more people-centered. It advocates for moderation, diversification and practicality from the micro-level of the farm to the macro-level of national policies, in order to build resilience to economic shocks.

The Sufficiency Economy Philosophy has at times been misinterpreted as proposing self-sufficiency in the manner of North Korea or Myanmar during its period of isolation. Economist Chis Baker has written, however, that even at the farm level the King’s theory calls for surpluses to be sold on markets and for progressive integration with the global economy.

“His Majesty the King of Thailand has been preaching to better moderate your desire, better maintain your own consumption within means, better build your own family economy of finance against your own productivity,’’ Surin said.

His speech to UNESCO was followed by an exhibition entitled “Cultivating a Sufficiency-Mindset in the Schools”, organized by the Royal Thai Embassy in Paris, featuring examples of Sufficiency Economy Philosophy success stories applied at schools throughout Thailand.

“We have found out that if we help the local communities, villages, to learn more about this very approach we can help them get out of debt, produce more, manage their own affairs more at the local level, and have surpluses to share, sell, trade with their adjacent communities and in the nation and of course, enough for export,” Surin said.

“At the local level, sufficiency economy starts with self productivity and self help, but also goes on to work on their moral ethical dimensions and that will reduce conflicts and unemployment in the village. We employ the youth and women in those villages,” he added.


Thailand Focus July 20th, 2015
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