National Broadcast by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, February 26, 2016
Good evening, dear Thai citizens.
February 26th is “National Cooperatives Day”. This day was designated as a mechanism to build a strong agricultural sector in the country, since the reign of King Rama V over 100 years ago. Its aim is to give farmers access to funding so that they can increase production for both consumption and trade. Most importantly, cooperatives help farmers stay out of the debt circle and free them from being taken advantage of by financiers.
The government will carry on what the cooperatives were set out to achieve since their beginnings – that is to build a strong grassroots economy. Recently, I presented land title deeds and certificates of more than 2,400 rai to a cooperative in Uthai Thani. The deeds will be handed out to 500 landless farmers, which is in line with the government’s policy. It allows farmers to share the given land to generate income. The same policy will be implemented in all parts of the country.
In addition, the government’s efforts to strengthen the agricultural sector are also being mobilized through the promotion of the “Smart Farmer” project, which aims to achieve an integrated agricultural production system. For instance, basic infrastructure development projects and information technology and communications projects will help make Thai local products known to the world such as the OTOP products, One Tambon One SME product, and products of social enterprises.
Not only does this create opportunities for Thai communities, but it also increases their ability to compete while buttressing the country’s competitive edge. It also allows us to be less susceptible to external economic factors which are beyond our control. I want Thailand’s economy to be able to stand on its own and be a pillar of stability for our society.
I would like to convey my encouragement to all agriculturists who will one day develop into Smart Farmers. With their new techniques based on smart technology, they will be able to improve their methods and make better plans for the future, especially for the next 10 or 20 years. This way of strategic planning is also a social trend that the government is trying to promote.
As for the drought situation, the government is closely monitoring developments. The combined amount of water stored in large and medium reservoirs throughout the country is reported to be 39 million cubic meters, 5.3 million cubic meters lower than what we had last year.
We will manage this supply; try to find new sources, as well rehabilitate dilapidated ones. We shall adhere to the national water management plan so that we have enough for agriculture, the industrial sector, and consumption. Should we use water more efficiently and strictly follow instructions, our supply will be sustainable for the foreseeable future. We will also need fresh water to push salt water away in order to maintain a balanced eco-system in the country.
The government has continuously been assisting farmers, who are also the top water consumers in Thailand. As they are facing many hardships during this drought, the government has initiated the following.
1) We have supported their education on drought mitigation and have distributed production material, so that can reduce production costs.
2) We have asked financial institutions to extend the debt repayment period for farmers.
3) We have offered extra and part-time jobs for farmers such as irrigation work, including training to enhance and develop new skills.
4) We have initiated drought-relief projects according to specific community needs.
5) We have campaigned for the efficient use of water, asking every agency to conserve water while encouraging rice producers to adopt new farming techniques.
6) We have increased water supplies through artificial rainmaking operations, constructing more reservoirs, and improving groundwater and water retention areas.
7) We have also helped to promote health and safety measures for farmers.
8) We have assisted disaster-hit farmers by providing them with financial support in accordance with the Ministry of Finance’s regulations as well as loan projects to bolster local economies and cooperatives.
In addition to our efforts to reduce farmers’ hardships, the government has been adamant on reducing the amount of water for agriculture by adapting the farming practices of local producers.
Most recently at this week’s cabinet meeting, approval was given for assistance measures to those affected by the current drought, in the form of programmes to enhance farmer’s capabilities. These measures were proposed by the Ministry of Finance and will serve as urgent situation responses in order to ensure that farmers are not distressed while we simultaneously try to improve their agricultural capabilities.
The first measure is a 6 billion baht loan project, which involves interest-free loans of no more than 12,000 baht with 1 year to repay the debt. 500,000 farmers who are members of the BAAC will be entitled to this loan. Due to the drought, these farmers are unable to grow crops while some have had their crops damaged. The project will also spur spending and improve monetary circulation, which can then help to prevent the problems incurred through informal loans and loan sharks.
The second measure is the one Tambon one SME project, with the total budget of 72 billion baht. No higher than 20 million baht will be issued to each loan-seeker while the repayment period is no more than 10 years, with an annual interest of 4%. Those entitled to the loan are SMEs, social enterprises, cooperatives, and community firms, numbering 7,200. The project will help create added-value to products as well as increase employment opportunities.
The third measure is the 15 billion baht project for communities to tackle drought effects through changing their production methods to more water efficient ways. Each loan seeker will receive no more than 3 million baht with a maximum repayment period of 1 year. The interest rate is 0.01% per year. Those entitled to the loan are 100,000 farmers residing in 26 provinces, along the Chao Phraya and Mae Klong river basins. These farmers will be chosen by their own communities while the loan will be specifically used for land rent, production costs, and labour costs.
In terms of water management, we have to look at plans for 2017 as well. Therefore, I would like to ask every individual to help conserve water and use it more efficiently. Cooperation is needed from all sides on this matter. In the mean time, the government has already formulated a water management plan which will be used until 2026.
The next issues is about addressing the problems faced by many communities and villages across the country, be they natural disasters, high production costs, or the falling prices of agricultural produce. One of the main causes of these problems is under-developed basic infrastructure in communities and the lack of necessary production foundations. Therefore, the government has focused on strengthening the grassroots economy according to the “state of the people” model of cooperation. This is done through 79,556 village and community funds, with a combined amount of 35 billion baht. Each fund will receive no more than 500,000 baht to be spent on infrastructure development projects such as barns, drying plants, mills, fertilizer plants, water retention, and processing machines.
The money can also be spent on other activities deemed useful to the community, so that residents can improve their overall well-being. This is an urgent matter and the money shall be distributed within 6 months.
Activities shall cover all processes, ranging from production and the creation of added-value, to finding new markets. This measure will meet the needs of farmers in adapting and improving the agricultural sector, which will also lend a hand to improving their living standards. Around 60 billion baht has already been allotted and the government will also help in terms of the interest rate for 2 years. There are more than 50,000 funds that will be benefiting for more than 3 million households.
I ask those participating to please be mindful in the use of budgets, to be transparent, and to create trust between the central, regional and district administrations and the general public. Please do your best to find common ground and ensure that the projects adhere to their agenda and purposes.
What I would to see emerge is a mechanism that is based on the “state of the people” model which involves active participation from the public, the private sector, and the government in developing the production and processing sectors, in marketing activities, and in land management. These projects should not be the same to other government economic mobilization policies. So to avoid redundancy, there needs to be a monitoring and assessment system that is effective and transparent.
The government, therefore, stands ready to support “state of the people volunteers” who can be a driving force to engender within communities, the common will to work together to raise the quality of life. These efforts have the potential to make villages, communities and society self-sufficient and resilient. In addition, this model of functional cooperation bodes well for national unity and reconciliation, and directly contributes to Thailand’s’ economic, social, and political development.
At the same time, drawing from His Majesty the King’s Sufficiency Economy philosophy to initiate practical measures and policies, especially for rural and remote areas across the country, has also been a cornerstone undertaking by the government. This approach is crucial to lift people out of poverty, address social disparities, and create a secure way of life based on self-sufficiency.
This entails provincial governors, district and village leaders, and civil servants acting as “caretakers” who can provide vocational knowledge and training for the public so that they can effectively implement various development projects and solve lingering problems. This can serve as a successful model of sustainable development that can inspire other counties and the international community.
In order to develop the country’s human resources, the government has agreed to a strategic education reform agenda that consists of six major policies that shall be implemented within a year and a half. This consists of:
1. Improving curriculums and the learning process.
2. Increasing the amount of teachers and their training.
3. Evaluating the assessment system to ensure quality feedback.
4. Developing human resources and research work to coincide with the country’s strategic needs.
5. Information technology for education, and
6. Improving the management structure.
Even though these policies may not be completed 100% in this limited time, the government will still implement them as they are part of the country’s 20 year strategic plan, its 5 year social and economic development plan, and other various reform agendas.
The goal is for our education system to be able to fulfill the needs of the workforce market and the country’s sustainable development objectives.
The government has mobilized a policy to reduce class time, while increasing learning time, by giving students the opportunity to choose activities according to interests and specialties, albeit with the help of teachers and counselors. This policy has resulted in successful learning activities and so we will continue to assess its outcome in conjunction with our efforts to further develop the country’s education system.
This is a government initiative that I think has been successful and thus serves as a way to reform the country’s vocational schooling system so that correlates to the country’s industrial development and support the labor demands of the ASEAN market. This can be done by making vocational studies more appealing, particularly since 2015 has seen the highest increase in enrollments for vocational schools in the past 10 years.
I would like to thank the private sector and related businesses in supporting on-the-job learning programmes that have given students hands-on experiences. With this example, I believe that the potential of Thai youth can compete with anyone in the world.
Thailand’s Professional Qualification Institute has set standards for over 200 vocational subjects. Students that pass these standards will be certified, which will then allow them to earn a guaranteed standard of wages. The government has also emphasized the use of the English language in order for students to further progress in their careers.
Education reform is something that I consider as being complex as it involves many laws and agencies, which can result in a lack of concentrated efforts. The government and the NCPO are, therefore, addressing this matter in the first phase of the reform agenda. In order for us to achieve tangible results by 2017, I therefore ask for cooperation from those in the education sector on this issue.
Regarding the drafting of the constitution, I ask for all citizens to consider, as I have been doing, what the country and Thai people need. What has happened in the past and what needs to happen in order for there to be peace and civility? How can communities be developed and strengthened, how can the economy become strong from its foundations, how can our politics retain stability, how will our politicians practice good governance and be accountable and develop the country, how can civil servants work with transparency and how the people can receive equitable assistance and access to resources? How can we achieve our goal of a country with stability, prosperous people, and sustainability?
If we share these common goals, we are all probably disappointed with the events that have transpired in the past 10 years or so. That is why we have embarked on these necessary reforms. The presence of the NCPO and this government is merely to “stop the bleeding” of our nation. How can we turn this crisis into an opportunity? This is a calling that every citizen should contribute to. Therefore, I think the drafting of the constitution is a national agenda for all to work together on.
I would like all Thai citizens to think of what you can do to turn the reform agendas we’ve already agreed on in the past 2 years into real actions. In this regard, there needs to be a mechanism that can create confidence amongst ourselves that the country be stable enough to make real progress and not revert back to its previous situation of conflict. We have a national security policy and a 20 year strategic plan that serves as a framework for national development, which will thus guide the government, the private sector and the public to mobilize the country in the same direction, rather than in a fragmented way like before.
The strategic national plan is a broad framework. I would everyone to study the details as it serves as a guideline for successive governments as well. This framework needed to be drafted so that our citizens can have an awareness of how our country needs to progress, so that all sectors of society can become resilient. Every 5 years, the country will assess this national strategic plan along with the NESDB’s national economic and social development plan. After the year 2017, there will be 4 of such plans: plans 12, 13, 14 and 15 which will last for 5 years per plan.
The plan defines what needs to be done in each year as well as what needs to be done by the end of each 5-year plan. With this, the new government will be able to manage the country with stability and effectiveness. If the government implements the country’s strategic national plan along with its own party platform, I think the country will have a bright future. I, therefore, would like to thank our politicians that maintain the noblest intentions for the country. Therefore, we should not be in dispute on this matter, as all of you profess the will to serve the people and the nation, and not your own interests.
I ask for your cooperation and your confidence in the government, the NCPO, CDC, NLA and NRSA. We will perform our duties with your trust and confidence and to the best of our abilities, to serve the Thai people.
Thank you. Sawasdee Krub