From the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to Sustainable Development Goals – April 28, 2017
Earlier this week, I led a group of Cabinet ministers to the Kingdom of Bahrain upon the invitation of the Prime Minister of Bahrain. This year, Thailand and Bahrain are celebrating the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations which both countries have enjoyed, especially the strong ties between Thai and Bahraini Royal Families.
The Thai people were particularly touched by the condolence message from His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa on the passing of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
HM the King of Bahrain also offered his congratulates to His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun on His ascension to the throne. As you can recall, the Bahraini Premier had also come pay his respects to HM the late King several months ago.
During my visit, I was granted an audience with His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa and we discussed bilateral cooperation. I was also informed of Bahrain’s “Economic Vision 2030.”
Initiated by His Majesty himself, the economic vision aims to bring about stability and growth for the people of Bahrain on the basis of sustainability, justice, and competitiveness. The vision relates with our “Thailand 4.0” policy emphasizing technology, creativity, and innovation to achieve stability, prosperity, and sustainability. Cooperation on various aspects was also discussed.
Thailand and Bahrain have inked 3 memoranda of understanding on 1) agricultural development and cooperation, 2) double taxation, and 3) the promotion of the role of Thai medical experts in Bahrain’s “Visiting Doctor Programme.”
In the future, Thailand is looking forward to receiving the Prime Minister of Bahrain and reciprocating the warm welcome for his visit in order to enhance the cordial ties between both nations.
My fellow citizens and all labour workers, National Labor Day is observed on May 1st of every year which coincides with an international holiday known as May Day. Labour work is a key driving force in the production and economic value chains. It is the power that drives the production sector.
Therefore, the country’s economic stability and growth are directly linked with our labour workforce, which include salary-based workers and freelancers that make up two thirds of the entire labour workforce, and include those on take-home payroll, part-time or seasonal crop farmers and producers, fishermen, part-time maids, home cleaners, contractors, street traders, street vendors, beauty stylist, and barbers.
These people are low-income earners who often have income insecurity. If they do not receive assistance from the government such as a labor protection laws, social welfare, and other privileges, this will have an effect on our society and national security.
For this reason, the government considers it is necessary to create a data center for labourers within the Thai population. The data center will assist the government in determining policies to benefit this group, including blue-collar workers, persons with disabilities,
and foreign workers from our neighboring countries who can also register with the center. The data will also help organise the labour sector, and help develop the management system in order to maximize the potential of the country’s human resources.
In the past, Thai workers were often taken advantage of by their employers such as low wages, low compensation, and improper welfare. Add to this problems of basic needs, access to health benefits, accommodation, and education.
Therefore, this government has stressed the importance of addressing these problems, in order to create security and sustainability for all labour workers, especially informal workers who earn low incomes. This has led to a number of assistance measures in the past two years as such as,
in terms of healthcare, the government has issued the 72-hour emergency policy for those with emergency needs. Patients will be admitted to the nearest hospital, either public or private. This initiative secures a basic right to emergency medical care for all Thais.
More info on this matter can be acquired from hotline 1669. The second measure is the “family doctor” programme, which has been part of our healthcare reform based on preventive medicine. The program will build networks of household healthcare services nationwide. By 2027, there will be around 6,500 family doctor teams.
In terms of social welfare, there is now a national savings fund for people and workers who are not registered with the Government Pension Fund, the provident fund, and/or the social security fund.
We also have the Justice Fund to help people with legal procedures and advice, as well as victims of human rights violations.
In addition, until May 15, the government is accepting registration for those seeking welfare benefits, which include living cost reduction for low-income earners, such as discounts on water and electricity bills, and bus fares in Bangkok and the provinces. Those entitled to this welfare are encouraged to apply.
As for the assistance pertaining to the skills training and career security, we have the “Smart Job Center” for job recruitment services. We have also created a system to regulate wages according to the skills of workers in the 10 targeted industries.
And there is also the promotion of vocational education through the Pracharat approach, to create a systematic labour market that meets actual demand from the Industry Ministry, Agriculture Ministry, and Commerce Ministry. On the supply side are the Education Ministry and the Labour Ministry. This is to pave the way for the era of “Thailand 4.0”
In the future, the Thai workforce will develop from manpower to brainpower and I would like every sector to place importance on self-improvement, which is essential to our national development.
Thai workers must develop into skilled workers, a quality workforce, an innovative workforce, and most importantly, a creative workforce. At the same time, these workforces must welcome change and keep themselves abreast on modern technologies.
My fellow citizens, the country’s “Thailand 4.0” policy emphasizes the reform of our economic system. It has been designed to turn a country heavily dependent on heavy industries and exports, to a country focused on research and innovation. There are many tasks that the government is mobilizing to realise this.
For the matter of mobilization and management, as this is an urgent national agenda, it will be overseen by the Committee for Reform, Reconciliation and the National Strategy.
This will involve preparing our citizens for the 21st century, nurturing innovation entrepreneurs and enterprise networks, developing industrial clusters and the 10 targeted industries, promoting economic stability in the country through mechanisms in 6 regions, 18 provincial groups, 76 provinces, integrating ASEAN, and connecting Thailand to the rest of the world.
We will also develop tangible infrastructure as well as ‘soft infrastructure’, such as wisdom and knowledge in our society. This aspect has often been overlooked, but nonetheless is very important as it is vital to enhancing Thailand’s competitiveness.
For the matter of preparing our skilled labour or human resource development, I consider this is central to turning the country into Thailand 4.0. In this sense, 4.0 citizens are people of the 21st century who have knowledge, analytical skills, and ability in the STEM fields, namely Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.
The government, the private sector, educational institutions, and parents should join the effort to prepare Thai children for a constantly changing society in the context of an economy that is centered around technology, innovation, and creativity, all of which can help ingrain community service in our children as well.
For the matter of the facilitation of trade and business in Thailand, not only do we have to build an environment where business transactions are fast, convenient, and effective, but we also have to revise laws and regulations to cut down lengthy procedures so as to create situation conducive to business and investment, and to administrative reforms.
Over the past two years, the government has corrected many obstacles for the private sector, including the issuing of the Act on Facilitation for Consideration of Approvals from the Government Agencies, and the improvement of many public services. Through the adoption of information technology, fewer documentations are required for approvals, streamlining the business sector and stamping out corrupt practices, while also promoting good governance.
There is also the priority of promoting knowledge and technology transfer from foreign investments. Thailand will never be able to sustainably develop its competitive advantage if it continues to rely on the technology of others. We have to be able to rely on our own technology and our own innovations.
This is why the government has pushed for the promulgation of two laws, including the Investment Promotion Act and the Enhancement of Competitiveness of Targeted Industries Act. These laws are aimed at attracting foreign investments and promoting technological partnerships between the government and the private sector, Thailand and foreign countries, and between Thai universities and foreign universities.
They are also aimed to recruit talented personnel from foreign countries to support our efforts in national development. This will create the transfer of knowledge, skills, science, and technology to Thai workforces. These acts will include facilitative measures in terms of Visas, work documentation, and personal income tax reduction for researchers and experts in related areas. We will also set up a “Talent Management” center.
Under the Thailand 4.0 approach, the government attaches great importance to area-based development policy, emphasizing wealth distribution throughout the nation, which will in turn ease the crowdedness in metro areas, as well as family problems in rural provinces that can lead to other issues.
There is also the focus on development according to the needs of each region and provincial group. We will also build innovation hubs in different parts of Thailand especially along the border areas, connecting Thailand with other nations through the special economic zones, according to the principle of leaving no one behind. This effort will be spearheaded in the form of strategic partnerships with CLMV countries and ASEAN.
Another important policy is the eastern economic corridor (EEC). We want this area to be the best and most modern economic zone of the ASEAN region, being the economic center for business, finance, research and development, aviation repair and maintenance, and tourism, only to name a few.
In the first 5 years, it is expected that there will be 1.5 trillion baht worth of investments in the EEC area from the government and the private sector. In the next 10-20 years, with cooperation and readiness from all sides, the country will become a prominent economic centre in this region. So we ask for understanding and cooperation from the people on this as well.
My fellow citizens, today we can say that the Thai economy is recovering gradually. If we look back to the year 2014, the economy back then grew at 0.8%, 2.8% in the following year, and 3.2% in 2016.
This year, if all planned projects progress smoothly, the economy could potentially grow at the rate of 3.5%, which is considered an incremental recovery given the many lingering problems within the country and the global economic slowdown.
Although the growth will not be significant like in the past, it proves that the economy is stabilizing and has a tendency to steadily grow in the future. We have to take one step at a time.
Economic expansion in March was somewhat significant. The country saw continuous growth in exports, and an expansion in product categories accounting for more than 700 billion baht, which is a 10% rise compared to average growth during the past 5 years.
In addition, farmers’ incomes in March increased by 30% year on year thanks to higher production and prices, resulting in higher household income and consumer confidence.
All this has created a positive effect to domestic consumption as more people have purchased vehicles and appliances. As for the business sector, requests for business registration rose by 10% from the previous year, which indicates that the economy is rebounding and the private sector has higher confidence.
If we wish to see more growth at a higher rate, we must push for successful economic reforms. The government has already embarked on several measures for this, and they require continuation.
Another example is accelerating the implementation of the EEC project, which would serve as a foundation for future trade and production. These projects take a considerable amount of time and therefore, the participation from the public and the private sector will play an important role in bringing about decisive reforms.
However, there have been criticisms that improving economic conditions are not directly affecting the grassroots sector and that some economic policies are designed to benefit special interests. These criticisms serve to create conflict and compromise the efforts by the government and the private sector to create an environment conducive for investment.
The government has been carefully considering these issues and is committed to addressing them by accelerating its efforts throughout this year.
I would like everyone to look at the efforts this government has made towards helping the grassroots sector and the overall economy throughout these past three years.
This includes short-term measures designed to enable the public and the private sector to continue with business without any obstacles. which serves as a key mechanism in mobilizing the economy.
At the same time, the government has implemented long term policies to lay the foundations for economic, social, and legislative reform, including investments in infrastructure to raise the quality of living for the people. It is not an easy task to address long-standing problems, mobilizing the country, and planning for the future all at the same time.
Short term policies that are designed to raise the standards of living of the people have amounted to over 200 billion baht, not including low interest rate credit programs by state financial institutions, which have totaled over 400 billion baht.
These assistance measures were designed to support the production process and address the current price drops in rice, rubber, cassava, and palm oil, and to maintain appropriate market prices by preventing oversupply.
In addition to policies for the agricultural sector, the government has distributed 140 billion baht in assistance funds to low income-earning citizens and 60 billion baht in the form of low interest loans.
These funds have been distributed for the 8 million people who have registered for government welfare, assistance funds of 5 million baht per district, mortgage programs for 60,000 households, as well as access to residences at affordable rental rates.
The distribution of these funds were necessary for supporting the wellbeing of farmers and low income citizens in a time of volatile commodity prices and structural reforms.
Another burden faced by farmers and low income earning citizens is debt, especially with informal loans or loan sharks. This administration has worked to solve the problem by looking at the entire system, which has involved dealing with lenders and borrowers.
At the same time, we have been serious with addressing illegal loansharking by inviting lenders to renegotiate their terms and to properly register their credit businesses. In addition, the government has begun enforcing legislation prohibiting excess charges to interest rates since the 16th of this month.
For those in debt with informal creditors, the government has helped alleviate their burdens by sending officials to help renegotiate their terms and by tasking government banks to consider issuing loans to help pay off their existing debts. Other measures include supporting additional revenue and educating the public on ways to prevent excess debt.
At the same time, the government has provided legitimate channels of seeking capital, such as nano finance, pico finance, as well as a 4 billion baht emergency credit fund. The government hopes that these measures will contribute to alleviating some of the public’s financial burdens in order to live a more comfortable life.
Another sector that the government places great importance on is the SMEs, as the sector is a major employer of the country’s labour force as well as an important source of innovation that can help mobilize the country’s Thailand 4.0 agenda. In the past, the government has implemented a variety of measures to assist SMEs and startups.
Measures include credit and credit assurance programs totaling over 500 billion baht, in addition to another 75 billion baht for other measures. These credit programs have served to increase liquidity among SMEs to enable them to endure difficult economic times and rise to become 4.0-era businesses.
My fellow Thai citizens, in addition to the short-term measures that I had just mentioned, the government has implemented long-term investments, especially in infrastructure, in order to ensure that people have access to fast, convenient, affordable, and quality means of transportation.
These infrastructure projects will enhance the country’s transportation capabilities and connectivity within the production, service, and tourism industries, and contribute towards economic stability. Infrastructure projects to meet the needs of the public include,
Projects to raise the quality of living, which are:
1) Expanding electricity coverage to 99.7% of all current households.
2) Making tap water accessible to an additional 1.2 million people
3) Developing our high-speed internet infrastructure to cover an additional 40,000 villages to enable access to useful information on the internet.
4) Investing in housing for 30,000 low and middle income households in various areas, which will enable more independent housing conditions.
Projects designed to enhance transportation connectivity include,
1) Investing over 20 billion baht in new roads and improving the quality of existing routes to ensure convenience and safety.
2) Investing over 200 billion baht in railway transportation to accommodate travel and commerce. Projects include suburban routes, dual track railway projects, and electric train projects to alleviate traffic in the Bangkok metropolitan area.
3) Investing 50 billion baht in the development of ports to enhance the country’s maritime transportation capabilities.
4) Investing in regional airports and addressing the country’s civil aviation industry to comply with international standards and ICAO guidelines.
Projects designed to enhance economic stability include,
1) Constructing new power plants to increase the country’s electricity capacity to meet increasing demands,
2) Investing in a natural gas pipeline project to accommodate natural gas exploration and transportation,
3) Investing in groundwater improvement projects to ensure the stability and reliability of the country’s water distribution capabilities and increase the country’s water reserve capabilities,
Lastly, there are several projects to support sustainable development, which invlove
1) Supporting efficient use of energy and conservation as well as the use of electric vehicles in Thailand, reducing fuel imports and developing the country’s automobile industry. Thailand’s energy consumption ratio has continuously dropped throughout longer time frames, excluding periodical spikes during the summer.
2) Increasing the ratio of renewable energy and supporting a diversified approach towards energy in order to reduce dependence on fossil fuels,
3) Restructuring the country’s fuel pricing to reflect real costs, reducing government intervention and fuel subsidization by making the tax rate on benzene and diesel fuel more level,
4) Developing the satellite program for exploration and development (THEOS-2) to provide the country with more in-depth and accurate data in order to make more accurate and informed policies on natural resource management and telecommunications.
This includes policies that promote economic, social, and environmental development which will enhance the country’s aerospace and research industries.
These measures are among the many policies that this government has undertaken for the benefit of the country. There are many other programs under the responsibility of various ministries that require more time to implement, as well as support from the public.
This is why it is important that I inform the public of the government’s efforts to raise the quality of living for the people and create economic prosperity that all sectors can benefit from. In the past, I have placed great importance in the elimination of corruption and making the procurement process more streamlined and transparent in order to effectively distribute funds to various sectors.
The public is encouraged to be on the lookout for dishonest behavior and report suspicious activity to the nearby Damrongdhama centers as a way to contribute towards reforming the country and to ensuring that all sectors move forward with security, prosperity, and sustainability.
Finally, I would like to ask the Thai people to consider how much they have understood the teachings of our “Royal Father” or “The King’s Philosophy” and how much they have correctly and appropriately incorporated it into their daily lives. If we all learn to live modestly we can be content with what we already have and thus be less inclined to resort to dishonest behavior or fraud.
If we use knowledge and reasoning, we will have a framework for making decisions. If we remain ethical, we will be free from temptations that lure us into decadence. If we know what is and what isn’t appropriate, society will be peaceful and we no longer will have to hear of all the bad things that are happening in society today, whether they be fraudulent business projects or inappropriate uses of social media.
This administration’s policy towards sustainable development incorporates the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy as its guiding principle to create prosperity and progress throughout all sectors of Thai society, so that families can live and work together without having to come to Bangkok as the only way to seek their fortunes.
This approach does not promote materialism over creating a social conscience and moral substance. Given this, I would like to ask all of us to reflect on and learn from our past misdoings so that history does not repeat itself.
Tomorrow, April 29, I’m scheduled to attend the 30th ASEAN Summit in Manila, the Philippines. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of ASEAN, the leaders of member countries will use this opportunity to review the progress that we have made throughout the years, and consider the challenges that face the region and the world. I will share with you all the details of this meeting next week.
Thank you and I wish everyone happiness during the weekend. Sawasdee Krub.