From the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to Sustainable Development Goals – November 4, 2016
Good evening, dear Thai citizens.
October 28th was another historic day for Thai people to remember. The United Nations organized a special assembly in remembrance and in honor of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The UN Secretary-General and chairpersons of various regional groups such such as Asia-Pacific, Europe, Africa, Latin-America, and the Caribbean attended and spoke at the meeting.
The purpose of the assembly was not only to express condolences and sympathy to the Royal Family and the people of Thailand, but also to laud His Majesty King Bhumibol who was the world’s longest-reigning living monarch. The King was revered in the highest regard.
His Majesty’s graciousness and efforts to improve the livelihoods of his people throughout His 70-year reign underscored His Majesty’s Royal oath that He “would reign with righteousness for the benefit and the happiness of Siamese people.”
His Majesty has also been recognised for His contribution to promoting international cooperation. Many international organizations have presented His Majesty with several awards such as the first Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. Moreover, December 5th of every year has been designated “World Soil Day” in recognition for His Majesty’s ingenuity and His contributions to improving the quality of soil and helping Thai farmers learn to manage soil, in order for them to earn their livelihoods. His Majesty also played a dynamic role in raising public awareness about climate change and environmental conservation. His Majesty’s Philosophies are also correlated with the Sustainable Development Goals.
The United Nations’ special assembly for His Majesty affirmed a very important virtue that His Majesty had always emphasised, which was to take care of even what may seems as a little thing with great commitment. In the end, such acts will add up and come to the forefront of our successes.
October 28th thus underscored to the world that the King’s Philosophy has been essential to the well-being of the Thai people, and also that such teachings on sustainable development can be of benefit to all humanity, as acknowledged by the international community.
To express our eternal gratefulness and to honor His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s contribution to research and development on Thai rice, and also to pay tribute to His Majesty on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Thai rice research this year, the Cabinet on October 18th resolved to honour His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, as the “Father of Thai rice research and development”.
His Majesty had initiated several projects for the research and development of Thai rice, and launched a number of projects to ensure food security, economic growth, social development, not to mention new farming theories and practices such as ladder rice farming, artificial rain-making, and soil aggravation. The King was also the Royal Patron of Thai rice research and development through the Thai Rice Foundation.
Nevertheless, from past until present, Thai farmers have often been facing dropping prices of rice. The problem is structural one. This can involve, for example, when the supply of rice exceeds market demand, middlemen taking advantage of market volatility, high production costs, natural disasters like floods and drought, farming in low-yielding land, and even the level of rice humidity.
As well, monoculture happens when farmers cultivate only one crop in a given area. The practice is sometimes not enough to earn a living and farmer networks may not be as strong as they should be. Sometimes, there is also a lack of innovation in the industry. All of these problems can destabilize farmers’ incomes as farmers are sometimes forced to borrow money but can’t make ends meet. Then may have to eventually sell the rice field, forcing them out of their profession.
To address this problem, the government has adopted an important aspect of the King’s Philosophy, which is to study the matter in its entirety and in systematic manner.
This means to study the matter from the upstream level, such as land, water resources, wind, weather, production factors, seedlings, pest repellants, and fertilizers.Then we need to look at the midstream process, which includes investment capital, machinery, rice mills, processing, and innovation. The downstream process is when rice products are sold domestically and exported. Here we need to create a value chain, which may also involve some sort of crop insurance.
To be successful, we will need all the relevant information from researches, responsible agencies, scholars, and from the farmers themselves. This will allow the government to have the most accurate information, so that we can formulate assistance measures that are in line with socio-geographic conditions as well as to avoid repeating the same mistakes.
Short term solutions are still necessary, as they cater to the needs of farmers facing urgent problems. Short terms solutions can allow farmers to carry on with their lives and build stability step by step. The government has emphasised the importance of the price of rice, as the Cabinet has recently approved measures to stabilise rice prices for the fiscal year 2017. The measures were proposed by the Rice Policy and Management Committee.
The first measure, a loan project, seeks to postpone the selling of 2016/2017 off-season rice harvests. The credit line per ton is no more than 90% of the market price. The second measure concerns expenditures for rice drying and labor-related costs. This aims to help farmers, cooperatives, farmer groups, and community enterprises. The third measure is to help farmers with rice harvest and rice quality improvement. This assistance is for “Hom Mali” rice farmers. The implementation timeframe is 1 November 2016 to 28 February 2017.
Another way to solve falling prices of rice in line with the King’s Philosophy is for consumers to form a network and deal directly with the producers. Here consumer groups may have to work on the terms with rice mills as well. Once the consumers form their own groups, they can buy directly from farmers and find a third party to grind the rice. This is an approach which can avoid the problem of middlemen, but not altogether.
I wish to commend the project by longong farmers in Surat Thani for trading with rice farmers in Roi Et. This is a good example of the Pracharat approach. The project allows many sides to lend a helping hand in solving agro-problems. Through exchanges of crops, it also eliminates middlemen. Crops are being exchanged across different regions – north, south, east, and west. They sought to help themselves first before coming to the government for assistance, knowing well that some assistance measures take time because they usually require the revision of related laws.
This is good example of a strong network of farmers. Being able to build a value chain such as this is important. By doing so, they are able to get their products across regions, thereby helping them to create a sustainable market mechanism. The government can then be able to provide assistance or find ways to support such operations. If the system is in place, we will be able to accurately schedule when, where, and how crops should be exchanged or traded.
I’d like to extend my appreciation to all concerned agencies for issuing measures or being involved in solving this problem. The Ministry of Labour is compiling a list of vacant positions for farmers who wish to earn secondary incomes when they are not growing crops. The government will also provide career training, which will give farmers greater opportunities to earn money. We will also train farmers on how to conduct online trade so as to allow them sell the products on their own.
In addition, I’d like to thank all business operators such as PTT and Bangchak petrol stations for allowing the farmers to use certain areas free of charge to sell their crops. This will allow consumers to purchase rice easier.
In order to create long-term stability for farmers, the government will implement assistance measures in an incremental manner that takes into consideration, a restructuring of the country’s industry rice industry for the future. This will consider several market factors such as
1. having market demands dictate rice supply
2. creating standards for rice and stipulating assistance measures accordingly
3. adjusting the planting and production process by supporting quality strains, providing assistance on principal costs, providing extensions to debt repayment timelines, offering rice insurance
to support large scale community farms, providing education on production and marketing as well as alternative crops in areas where rice may not be a suitable option, and
4. ensuring fairness in the production and distribution process with various Pracharat mechanisms, which include improvements to regulations and practices.
This administration has drawn up an assistance plan for all the stages of rice production. These plans can be summarized as follows:
10 assistance measures for the production stage, including:1. Rice crop planning2. Registering farmers 3. Managing production factors 4. Reducing principal costs 5. Providing insurance on crops 6. Providing credit 7. Supporting hybrid farms 8. Research on rice strain development 9. Developing a new generation of farmers 10. Supporting self-sufficiency and reliance
3 assistance measure for the harvesting phase, including:1. supporting and managing agricultural machinery 2. increasing the quality and efficiency of rice mills 3. supporting production methods that add value to products
Assistance measures for the marketing phase, both domestically and abroad, including:
– Ensuring market fairness- Establishing and revising rice standards- Research and development- Adding value to products in sectors of high potential
– Creating government-to-government rice schemes- Expanding on specialized products
I would like to thank the rice mills and middlemen who have cooperated with the government in providing assistance to the farmers.
It is not our intention to destroy the rice production cycle or people’s way of life. Rather, it is to help farmers achieve a better, more sustainable life.
A critical issue that we have discovered is that the demographic of farmers has grown older. Most of the children in a farming family have moved on to other occupations and therefore labour has become scarcer. This has caused an increased reliance on machinery throughout all production stages, while debt continues to accumulate. Many are effectively conducting farming just to pay off debts, without retaining any income.
This administration has therefore drafted a comprehensive plan to tackle the issue in a sustainable manner, addressing the planting, processing and marketing phases. Solutions must be multifaceted to cope with a variety of issues such as price drops or natural disasters. All these measures must also not be too much of a burden on the country’s finances.
We need to also examine how we can address the issue of debt among farmers. We have considered extensions, interest rate reductions, and other measures that are compatible with bank policies.
Importantly, we need to ask how we can improve on the production and processing stages in a way that is both cost effective and water efficient and suitable for various geographical conditions. In addition, we must ensure that supply does not exceed the demands of both the domestic and global market.
One of the many successful measures is establishing large scale community farms which can consolidate efforts in land improvement, quality assurance, cost-reduction, and water efficiency with a variety of crops in cultivation.
In the past, solutions were not as systematic and only focused on the end problem. For example, solutions to water shortages were addressed by providing more water. However, the root cause is due to nature, manmade problems, a lack of understanding, or a lack of cooperation.
For example, creating water reservoirs will result in the ability to swiftly let out water. Many who lack understanding may be unwelcoming of change. Nevertheless, they still long for a better quality of life. The NGOs should appreciate that we must examine all aspects of an issue, focusing on a holistic solution.
It has never been the government’s intention to force its ways on farmers. It only aims to create understanding and sustainability. We cannot keep on using our old ways with regards to trading and exporting. Global markets are very competitive and the government cannot simply buy the rice and store it.
Offloading the government’s existing rice stores may cause further drops in market prices. Today, the world has an excess of rice reserves. This is why prices have been so repressed, making us unable to compete despite having rice that is superior in quality.
The policy to create incentives to plant crops that are appropriate to geographical conditions is an important one. We have established what’s called an “agri map”, which tells us the amount of water required for a crop and how to plan crop cycles without overlaps. Right now, prices have fallen due to oversupply. Creating hybrid farms or planting other crops during the off season are some of the many solutions.
It has never been the government’s intention to force all farmers away from planting rice. Instead we are providing ways for farmers to increase their income. We therefore ask that you also study the benefits of planting other crops at your own willingness.
Living within moderation during times of debt is an important principle. We must reduce unnecessary costs and allocate some money towards debt repayment.
The lenders and rice mill contractors should also make some sacrifices for the farmers and the good of the country.
Otherwise, all these issues will become politicized. Many issues are actually not political. But matters to do with legality should remain within judicial procedures. We also can no longer afford to solve problems only at the symptom using money. If we don’t restructure our economic system, there won’t be sufficient increase in income.
We must address the issue by considering the farmers, middlemen, rice mills, and market competition among many factors. This is why solutions sometimes take time. I, therefore, ask for understanding from all sectors on the matter. I am fully aware of everyone’s plight and do empathise.
We are also finding solutions to the problems associated with other crops. We acknowledge the problems in the corn industry and have tasked the economic committee with finding a solution.
Today, corn is another important issue that needs to be addressed. It is used for consumption as well as for livestock feed. Today, we are not producing enough corn but we also cannot let planting go rampant in restricted areas either. That’s why we need to resort to some importing. I, therefore, ask that companies refrain from purchasing corn planted in illegal zones or in areas that were cultivated at the expense of the natural forests and environment. I ask all to purchase corn whose origin has properly been traced and DNA analyzed.
When there is a shortage of corn due to restrictions placed on corn planted on illegal zones, we grow increasingly reliant on imports. The government is now working on a solution that adheres to the parameters of the law as well as international agreements. In these agreements, we are also obligated to trade with our partners. In any case, this administration will not favour any particular creditor group, but is resolved to provide real solutions with more opportunities and choices to farmers.
For livestock farmers who are now mixing wheat in their feed due to lower prices, the government must consider a comprehensive quota on importing corn and wheat, as well as a new taxation system. I would like to ask for your cooperation on this new change.
Demand for corn planted in authorized areas will still continue. Those who had previously planted in unauthorized areas will need to move their operations. Under the current corn shortage, we will encourage corn planting in areas that are unsuitable for planting rice. Based on surveys, corn costs less to plant than rice. Therefore, we will support corn farming along with rice.
The government will tackle these issues while taking into consideration the nature of the country’s livestock industry, international agreements, trade agreements, and the well-being of farmers. Everyone wants to plant high yielding crops, but not everyone understands the overall market conditions.
This administration has studied research findings and has taken surveys from producers and farmers. The ministries of Interior, Agriculture and Commerce have all studied the real conditions. Therefore, I do not want this issue to be politicized because we can no longer rely on what we have always done as a solution. We must figure out how we can preserve our country’s uniqueness and agricultural practices, while also increasing incomes and improving citizens well-being.
Another important issue is to solve the problems in the southern provinces. While the level of violence tends to fluctuate, resolving it will be a step by step process, both by the government and by the related parties. It is a struggle that involves development efforts and law enforcement against the perpetrators of violence who wish to exacerbate the conflict. We must not fall victim to such acts of violence. I ask for the support of the media in this regard. I hope you will understand.
Currently, the government has addressed this issue, first by sending extra military troops into the area as existing law enforcement agencies do not have enough manpower. Once the situation returns to normal, the troops stationed in the south will be pulled out. Therefore, we must depend on some special laws for now in order to defend and protect innocent people affected by this situation. The ones found responsible for violence will be brought to justice. This will be done efficiently and effectively through the legal system. Judgments must be fair. I have asked for reviews on this for all cases.
The government must also focus on solutions through the development of understanding and cooperation with the local people. This is even true for those who don’t agree with us, those who incite violence, and even those from other countries. I want us all to come together and help one another as Thai people. If we continue to fight and lack trust then nothing will ever get done. At this moment, the Sheikhul Islam is working and rendering valuable cooperation with the government to solve these issues. I take this opportunity to convey my sincere appreciation to him for all he has done.
“Understanding, reaching out, development” is a part of the King’s Philosophy that is an essential foundation for the country’s progress. I believe this is how our country will move forward in this time of change. We are laying down a foundation of reform for our future. We must create long term solutions that allow us to live together in peace. Therefore, it is important that the steps the government is taking receive the blessing of the people. I must thank those supporters in all sectors who have served as liaisons between the government (through the Ministry of Interior) and their communities. Thank you very much.
Support comes from mutual understanding. This “two-way communication” will allow us to turn animosity into a driving force for constructive relationships. It will allow us to turn steadfastness into a foundation. It will allow us to cooperate and develop in accordance with the government’s Pracharat model. I believe the King’s Philosophy will be the driving force that brings us together as a nation and we should work together for each other, for our country and for our children, so that we can all live up to His Majesty’s aspirations.
There are many issues that you should have a basic understanding of. One is that most governments have no more than 4 years to work. If the government is unstable, national development will not occur at full capacity. This is why we must invest so much effort and push towards a 20 year national strategy in order to ensure that things still get done, no matter which administration is in power and without infringing on their executive process.
Over these past 2 years, we can affirm that our administration has brought about political stability and peacefulness to our country. This in turn has allowed us to focus on development and strengthen national competitiveness. We will continue to endeavor to raise the quality of life for all citizens, even though our time is limited.
Meanwhile, the world economy is very sluggish at this time. This will affect our exports which used to account for 70 percent of our GDP. We may see this drop as our trading partners also import less to save money. This presents our government with 2 key challenges: (1) To maintain healthiness our domestic economy – a poor global economy is no excuse to let our people suffer and we will continue to provide as much support as we can.
(2) We must promote growth from within. In particular, we should focus on our economic foundations in accordance with His Majesty the King’s Sufficiency Economy Philosophy. As His Majesty once said: “a sufficiency economy can be thought of as a foundation for life and for this country, much the same as the piles that we drive into the ground to support our homes. These foundations support us even if most of us can’t see them and tend to forget them.”
Today, our citizens and farmers can be considered as the foundation piles that stabilise our home, Thailand. Therefore, this government places a lot of importance on this group, and we will try to strengthen it across every sector. In particular, we will try to allocate arable land to low income earners. This is a substantive undertaking so we ask for your patience on this matter.
Implementing a water treatment plan that works in line with our agricultural needs will require that we change our cultivation methods. We need to do things that better suit our environments. We must utilize larger plots in order to prioritize processing and management. We will also focus on adding value to products through our Food Innopolis establishments and through the promotion of SMEs, Start-ups and OTOP projects.
As for the 10 target industries, the details are shown on your screen. Our plan is to increase the potential of the top 5 industries, according to an S-curve , and to increase the potential of 5 future industries, according to a New S-curve. The future industries will allow us to compete on the international stage and will strengthen our 10 special economic zones across the country. Today, we have been seeing steady progress in this regard.
Another important matter is the development of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC). This is made of clusters and super clusters that we are driving forward towards a new “Digital Economy”, as a part of our “Thailand 4.0” Initiative. We are putting a lot of emphasis on innovation, production and education. We will also focus on the labour market in conjunction with our future plans for the country. In Thailand, we have people of many generations. We call them Thai 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 and 4.0 with 1.0 being the oldest generation. The government will focus on developing every one of these groups in order to improve their quality of life and reduce inequalities.
I would also like the public to understand the economy in terms of “monetary flow”. Breaking it down, there are 4 main areas:
(1) Public spending, (2) government investment, (3) foreign investment, and (4) exports. The public should understand these concepts in order to have a role in maintaining our economy. For example, our economy will not progress, if people won’t spend or if the government doesn’t invest, because these are the things that encourage other countries to invest in us.
Previously, I had mentioned that exports made up 70 percent of our GDP. This can no longer be the case due to the poor global economy. Some people are referring to it as a “Tom Yum Goong” economy where the top banks are having problems. However, it can been seen as more of an upside down “Tom Yum Goong” economy in the sense that the economy in the upper sectors is doing fine whereas the lower sectors have been experiencing a bad period for 2-3 years. This is due to droughts, a drop in produce prices, and lack of real support from the government for the past 10 years. However, this government will do its best to support lower sectors.
Our former GDP had grown only 0.8%. Today, that number has jumped to 3.5%. I believe this is the result of government stimulus and our efforts in strengthening the economy from the grass roots level, in conjunction with new investments. These endeavors will increase competitiveness within our nation. This can be seen through investments in infrastructure on land, rail, sea and air as well as through ICT. These things all require proper management to ensure that we will receive maximum benefits for people at all income levels. People must be able to prosper, whether this is through Thailand 4.0, or through the new industries. This is our chance to reform our economy and the country together.
Lastly, I would like to invite all who are interested to come and visit the “OTOP Wisdom to the World” event at the Padung Krung Kasem Canal Market in front of Government House from November 3rd to 27th. In addition, you will be able to find lots of great high quality OTOP products for sale from all over the country. This has been quite successful so far.
I would also like to thank the 17 embassies who have also brought their unique products to showcase at the event. These products embody local wisdoms and cultures of these countries and will also be available for sale. Some of these include: carpets from Pakistan, gems from Sri Lanka, hand crafted items from Iran and Nigeria, batic cloth from Indonesia, silk from Laos, Buddhist sculptures from Nepal, and herbs and spices from India. We are all friends, joined by our common humanity, sharing one planet together.
Thank you very much. Sawasdee krub. I wish you all happiness.