From the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to Sustainable Development Goals – May 19, 2017
Good evening dear Thai citizens.
As the new school year started, His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun has expressed concerns over the well-being of students afflicted by the recent flooding in southern region, and has bestowed 40 million baht from his personal funds, in the forms of 27 scholarships,
educational expenses, stipends, and school equipment, to students of families that have suffered losses caused by the devastating floods. His Majesty will also provide tables and chairs to educational institutions including kindergartens, primary and secondary schools in the 10 provinces affected by the floods. His Majesty’s benevolence to Thai education has been incomparable.
His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun has conveyed his messages regarding education through the Privy Councilors, with an aspect that has “recommended Rajabhat Universities to work diligently to meet their targets of uplifting education and development in their respective areas”.
This is an indication of how, in the past 30 years that His Majesty has been conferring degrees to Rajabhat University graduates, His Majesty has placed great importance on higher education as a vital aspect of the nation’s stability. His Majesty has observed the potential of higher educational institutions and fundamentally understands
the importance of Rajabhat Universities, which were established to produce quality teachers and academics so that they can serve as experts in the development of their local communities, in order to be able to improve the quality of life as well as foster a devotion to the nation, religion and the Monarchy.
I’ve learnt from a report that the rectors of Rajabhat Universities have recently adjusted their strategies for the years 2017 to 2036 to incorporate His Majesty’s recommendations to be the main strategy to develop the 38 Rajabhat Universities across the country as principals of community development, while continuously producing quality teachers and uplifting the quality of education. The strategy complies with the Rajabhat University Act, B.E. 2547.
So far, some Rajabhat Universities have been successful while some have just started the initiative. Now it is time for all of them to work together to ensure concrete results in community and national development.
This will also be a way to complement His Majesty’s benevolence and care for all Thai citizens. I ask that Rajabhat Universities use the capabilities and knowledge that they have to help uplift the well-being of local communities in the most fitting ways.
There is a good example of corporate social responsibility by Uttaradit Rajabhat University, which has engaged with its local community for almost 20 years, building networks and cooperation between the universities 8 faculties, local governmental agencies, as well as the public, in 25 local areas. Their efforts have helped to address local problems and obstacles more effectively.
For instance, there is the case in which Uttaradit Rajabhat University joined hands with local authorities to educate the local people about the problem of livestock waste and then coming up with a solution that made use of cow dung by changing it into biogas for household energy use, thus lowering energy bills and reducing other household expenses.
This is a good example of finding a solution to a problem based on the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy. I’d like to ask the Ministries of Interior, Agriculture, Labor, Education, and others to place importance on the knowledge 38 Rajabhat Universities can offer, and how other educational institutions can contribute to the improvement of people’s lives and find solutions to local problems. This will be important to reducing socio-economic disparities in Thailand, which complements His Majesty’s recommendations as well as helps to realize the government’s intentions.
Another example of a creative and interesting idea in education is to use colors to help people read Thai and English alphabets. Teachers at Bannongkae School in Wang Nam Yen district of Sa Kaeo province are using this technique, and enabling their students to learn more effectively as evidenced by the recent ONET exam scores the students received.
Other schools in the area have done the same and have had the same success. Using colors to help people read can be effective and yield tangible results. This idea can be developed for higher productivity in education. As this is a good example, I have instructed the Ministry of Education to conduct more research on the technique,
and gather more information about similar cases of effective teaching in Thailand and overseas, in the hopes that they can be adjusted to the context of Thai education. Thai schools are expected to benefit from this research.
I consider that thinking outside the box and creativity go a long way in the 21st century. This is important to raise education standards in Thailand and open the opportunities for our citizens to access useful information, so as to realize the vision for Thailand to make progress in the area of ‘borderless education”. Therefore, the government has developed the communications technology infrastructure through such programmes as the “Pracharat Internet” project.
Under this scheme, we are looking to have 25,000 villages to have access this year and 15,000 more villages next year. More than 30,000 villages already have access to the internet. The total number we aim to achieve is 70,000 villages. The government will speed up installation. Another idea is to promote the establishment of education institutions from foreign investors, in particular from renowned institutions.
This could be the establishment of a university with a faculty or courses that the country is in need of. This could also be private schools that focus on science and technology. This is to support “Thailand 4.0” policy especially in the Eastern Economic Corridor and 10 special economic zones.
My fellow citizens, we have seen some foreign perspectives on the government’s and the NCPO’s 3-year performance. We have observed periodic assessments of our progress in a number of fields from several global institutions, with many of them concluding that the country is moving in the right direction. The latest report by U.S. News which ranks “Best Countries to Start a Business” has listed Thailand as number 1, and this has been for 2 years running.
In addition, Thailand has been named among top 10 countries in various respects such as tourism, the overall growth, and cultural development. Thailand has also been mentioned as being exceptional in the area of businesses opportunities for investors. We have also been referred to as a suitable and popular destination for foreign retirees.
With these rankings and the listing of Thailand in past and recent surveys, I do not wish to talk much about the performances of the government, because a good performance does not always mean new things. At the same time, we have also sought to resolve many longstanding problems, such as corruption, which requires continuous effort, restructuring, more work integration, and working with other agencies towards achieving similar goals,
enhancing the productivity of officials and civil servants, and administrative reform. We have also worked on boosting the nation’s competitiveness. There have also been assistance measures that many people are familiar with being dependent on, but have yet to understand why we have not given out larger amounts. Such sayings usually derive from political interests.
What I want to reiterate is that financial support is only a short-term measure, which has to be implemented appropriately. However, we have to invest in knowledge and technology, so that people have better opportunities in life and in their careers. In addition, we have to create long term and sustainable measures to strengthen the grassroots level, which is a key priority for the government. We will also find more ways to help low-income earners and this has to be done quickly.
As you can see, the government and the NCPO have attempted to bring about sustainable solutions to achieve stability, prosperity, and sustainability for the nation. We have chosen to undertake a difficult task, but we have not taken the way of short fixes. This is a better approach than what has been attempted in the past, such as in the cases of human trafficking, IUU fishing, aviation safety, forest encroachment, land allocation, water management, narcotics control,
and corruption. We have also promoted trade and investment at all levels, from the upstream, midstream, to downstream. This may appear not to be substantive because it is different from providing financial aid, which is a quick fix but often for political purposes. Therefore, I’d like to ask politicians to review the real needs of the society and Thai people, so that Thailand can make real progress.
An example of a policy that can assist with sustainable solutions is the drafting of a city plan map that covers 73 provinces nationwide. Although it is difficult, the task needs to be completed in a timely manner. There has been some effort in the past to come up with a master plan, but there was not much progress. It may have been based on what people in local areas wanted, but it did not coincide with the development of the nation in a constantly changing world. That is why we have had to change our approaches by providing more information to the people and getting them involved in the process as much as possible. In the past 3 years of this government, we have finally been able to complete this work, although some improvements are still needed.
The map was officially promulgated on 3 May 2017. However, the most important thing is effective law enforcement and cooperation between civil servants, the private sector, and the public, so that the laws are not violated, in particular on city planning which forbids forest encroachment, unauthorized use of land, and construction that pollutes the environment, such as building structures in natural waterways.
As for economic problems, before the NCPO, people may not have been effectively cared for in a comprehensive manner. Policies may not have been carried out effectively, while assistance and solutions often lacked medium and long-term action plans.
Furthermore, fake demand in the market was created, which led to saturation in the investment sector. It created bogus demand in the country, thwarted the country’s competitive edge, and did not value innovation as essential to the production process. Some agricultural measures resulted in higher debts for farmers. This is why we have to take one-step at a time to solving this problem. We have to restructure the entire system
by promoting mixed crop agriculture, reducing off-season farming activities, switching to more commercially viable crops, and adhering to the water management plan, both for the drought season and the rainy season. The 882 agricultural learning centers established by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and their networks numbering between 80,000 and 10,000 now, are mobilizing assistance for the farmers and will continue to do so in the future.
In the past, we were not able to build stability and security in the grassroots economy. There was no effort to provide knowledge that is more useful to the farmers. There was no effort to encourage them to form into cooperatives, and there were not real efforts to enhance our infrastructure. People were thus not able to stand on their own feet and were often overwhelmed with debts. This made many people too dependent on government assistance.
We have to encourage new investments, and new businesses. The government will promote the use of technology, science, to answer the needs of the nation, society, and daily life. We will rely on the knowledge of outsiders in the beginning until we have our own inventions and innovations. Then will be able to come up with our own products for Thai consumers before we export them to other markets.
We must not forget to build networks of economic connectivity from the upstream level, which is the production, the midstream level which is processing, value adding, research, and innovation, and the downstream level which is finding the right market and matching businesses inside and outside the country. This will help to distribute income and connect communities, rural areas, provinces, provincial groups, regions, special economic zones, EEC, CLMVT, ASEAN, and the world community together.
Other important elements in production include water and energy sources. The government is trying to foster new forms of cooperation with other nations such as the hydropower plant project between Thailand and Cambodia. Under the project, a reservoir will be constructed to replace the discharging of 1 billion cubic metres of water every year, just to keep saltwater away.
The plant will have a capacity of generating 24 – 50 megawatts of electricity while utilizing around 300-500 million cubic meters of water a year. It will supply energy and water to the EEC zone in the eastern region. The project will be completed in 2023.
Another important element that will determine the competitiveness of Thailand for years to come is the ease of doing business. In the eyes of the World Bank, who gave us useful suggestions and ideas, the current government is committed to expediting reorganization and reform of the public sector to facilitate investments in Thailand.
The government is open to suggestions from the private sector, so that all sides can work together for mutual benefits. I have always reiterated that Thailand welcomes foreign and domestic investors and is on the frontline in trying to foster an environment that caters to the needs of the business sector.
The government has set a target to upgrade and improve Thailand in the ease of doing business list, to world’s top 30 countries. The plan has short, medium, and long-term goals, with 73 major activities, 26 of which are already done, while the rest are being implemented under the cooperation of the government and the private sector as well as the World Bank.
For instance, the government’s efforts to ease business transactions have resulted in a shorter timeframe for business registration and a lower registration fee. To elaborate, we have cut registration procedures from 5 procedures, which take 25.5 days to only 3 procedures, which take only 2 days.
And the registration fee has been adjusted down from 6,600 to 5,800 baht. The World Bank, who has all along emphasized the reduction of business obstacles and related problems for the private sector, has appreciated this.
The World Bank Director also added that Thailand should create a website about doing business in Thailand in order to provide a convenient source of information for interested foreign entities.
He also suggested that the Thai government add additional communication channels in order to create accurate understanding among foreign investors regarding economic policies and government services. I agree with these suggestions as they coincide with what this administration has continuously been working on.
We are gradually working on these agendas and I ask that related agencies bring about these policies as soon as possible. These agendas involve many agencies and many pieces of legislation as well.
My fellow Thai citizens, in our bid to create awareness and understanding among students and the public, I would like to encourage local administrators at all levels to inform people about the government’s policies and the work of government officials. This way, there will be more understanding in society, and people can ask questions about how we can work together to build understanding and cooperation based on good sense.
I also would like communications to be two ways, so that people can fully understand the laws and regulations that the government must carry out. A lack of understanding can lead to misinformed assumptions regarding the timeliness and fairness of policies. This includes providing information about services and how citizen’s needs can be met. This can result in better policy implementation and understanding.
Local administrators should also encourage all sides to submit their suggestions and pose questions, as this will benefit the country as a whole. I want people to be able to coexist in society with peace, satisfaction, reconciliation, and a democratic system with good governance in the future.
Please give the NCPO the opportunity to support and oversee these activities. The Ministry of Education and teachers at all levels are also encouraged to talk to their communities and families about the problems the country faces, what this administration has done to resolve them and what can be improved. This would bring about an exchange of viewpoints and knowledge in society.
I also want us to reflect on the troubles of the past and consider what this administration has done to address those issues and reform the nation. Some solutions have been swift or lengthy according to the complexity of the issue at hand. What is important is that we also reform the way we think by encouraging thinking based on reason, principles, processes, and proper analysis. This all starts at the individual level.
In addition, we must also understand and have faith in each other. Otherwise, we will continue to blame each other and refuse to cooperate. If this is the case, our efforts may prove futile. This administration places great importance on the education system, learning, and human resource development. The quality of our people and civil servants has also been a priority, in particular the goodwill and good sense of working together instead of only making demands based on a simplistic understanding of democracy.
This principle is also an important element in our efforts towards political reform. I want everyone to unite and cooperate. We need to foster a basis of good sense in society to foster unity in the country.
We should all contribute to achieving these aspirations, not just the government sector. The private sector, academia, civic groups, and local communities should also reach out to each other and contribute in ways they can. We should consider how we can play a part in addressing these issues and how we can contribute. We must move forward together with the same strategy and purpose, instead of only pursuing fragmented interests that go in different directions.
The government sector should focus on downsizing and enhancing efficiency. Adding new agencies and functions must take into consideration budget constraints. If we can integrate our efforts under the Pracharat model, we will be able to contribute to the downsizing of the government, reductions in medical costs, and reductions in government spending. We will then be able to reallocate these funds towards welfare programs for the public.
Incorporating the latest technologies and digital platforms in the state administration process is one way we can reduce the size of government and make it more efficient. An example is the use of mobile applications to access government services.
Another key factor towards achieving reform is the establishment of a clear National Strategy, which includes national reform agendas. Each ministry must mobilize their own reform agendas and make sure that they are well implemented. This starts from creating a clear blueprint that all sides can work with, consisting of steps and ways agencies can synthesize their efforts. The reality of this may be complex and difficult.
This is why no other government has sought to do this in the past. Problems are often multifaceted and complex to solve. This administration has been committed to tackling the difficult issues that are the source of the many problems that affect the basic needs and well-being of the people. Before, quick-fix solutions were the norm. Today we are looking at solutions at all the timeframes. As we have seen, each government term usually is short, maybe 4 years at best. This is why some governments have focused on policies that benefit them politically instead of focusing on sustainable solutions to difficult problems.
However, these difficult issues are what this administration and the NCPO are focusing its efforts on. We are focusing on creating a mechanism where various agencies and organizations can work together while making sure that one policy does not cause adverse effects somewhere else. We must examine problems at all angles and take into consideration what other agencies are doing as well.
Examples of integrated approaches include systematic water management, standardizing units in maps, and nationwide urban planning that simultaneously addresses flood-prone areas but also ensures urban growth that is in harmony with the environment and population growth. This is to prevent overpopulation in cities such as Bangkok, which would lead to more disparities and other economic problems as we see today.
This is what this administration is doing. We are laying the foundations for a National Strategy to serve as a “compass” that points to the “light at the edge of the tunnel”, given the limited time we have. Therefore, I ask that everyone understands and cooperates. I ask for time and patience. The planting of a tree takes time and can be disrupted by various diseases and conditions. The creation of a nation’s future is the same as well.
As for preparing for our move towards a democracy, I hope that what this administration and the NCPO has done will not be undone in terms of laying a foundation for the future. We have made an effort to “straighten” what has “shifted” and fortify its foundation, as I had said on May 22, 2014. Nevertheless, there may be some that disagree who will try to destroy what we have done, and shift things back to where they were so that they can return to power and regain their voter base, thus leaving the people more or less helpless.
If so, people will come to be dependent on the government and politicians as they have before. This is a weak point of Thailand’s democracy in the past. I hope that people consider this as well as how good governance in has not really been created in the past.
This government stands ready to mobilize Thailand towards a “real” democracy instead of a “ceremonial” one. Elections are only one component in a democracy, but many people make this a higher priority than other important principles.
Today, I am happy that many politicians are talking about constructive things such as the need for cooperation, preventing unscrupulous people from entering the political system, and the importance of sustainable development. It is up to the people as to whether we will be able to remove ourselves from our old traps and quagmires. Please do not let the many good politicians or those who wish to seek office in the future be disheartened from public service.
I want everyone to reflect on the teachings of their respective religions and use them as a “guiding light” in our bid to coexist in a reconciled and peaceful manner, along with instilling a sense of love for the nation and a constructive and civil political culture. We must all do this for the sake of national reform and elections in the future, which I consider a national agenda. I hope that everyone exercises patience and perseverance throughout this process.
Another important manner is that this administration acknowledges that in spite of recent positive economic numbers, wealth has not been adequately distributed. This administration therefore must continuously come up with economic stimulus policies, as many at this time may feel that they have yet to see the benefits of this administration’s work. Purchases of some products have decreased, which is indicative of a lack of purchasing power among the people. The government is doing all that it can at this time but certain policies may be delayed due to concerns or legal restrictions.
These challenges, coupled with distortions of information, blaming, and lack of understanding, results in less cooperation than expected. There may be promises given by politicians who are exploiting the current situation by spreading false information and promising to address these issues themselves when they come into office. These kind of solutions will only tackle the symptoms of the problems, which often leads to the illusion that things have improved.
I do not want to say who is right or wrong. We must all work together in order to create sustainability. Addressing matters that affect people’s well-being requires a considerable amount of money. This administration needs to find a way to fund these solutions while at the same time investing in the foundations for the future. Certain assistance programs may have legal restrictions, thus preventing them from directly handing out money. This must be handled carefully and could result in problems in the long-term if we fail to exercise prudence.
Nevertheless, this administration is working hard at finding appropriate measures that address matters swiftly. We will only do what is correct and try to deliver results faster.
However, we must constantly think of how we can show low-income earners how we are trying to solve their problems. We must work together according to the Pracharat model. I ask civil servants of all agencies and the private sector to contribute in this task, as we cannot rely on the state alone, as many programs require large budgets.
Large-scale investments, such as dual track railways, the Thailand to China electric train line, and various tollways, need to be accelerated. However, opposition has been continuing. I would like to say that these are not normal times. We must accelerate our operations. If people want to argue and restart these programs in the same way as before, wait until when we are a democracy. This way, we will see how these things will not be able to happen like before. If we think and act in the same way we have in the past, we will fall behind at this time. We are now reforming the country. Therefore, please understand some of these things.
Government disbursements of funds that must go through the bureaucracy are still delayed due to regulations on budget disbursements and multiple steps that cannot be eliminated due to legal restrictions. People may ask why I am unable to get this done using the special powers I have, or whether I need to listen to the voice of the majority. I listen to all groups and if I were to use my special powers, I would first need approval from a majority of the people. We must focus on reducing the problems that we have. If people continue to oppose everything, what will we be able to achieve? We will go back to where we started.
Therefore, if you want me to use my powers in the right way, just let me know that you are ready for me to do that. However, I guarantee that I will not do what is wrong. I will do what is right and necessary in hopes of making things better. Another thing that we must be careful about is examining what is on social media channels. Today, there is a lot information on these platforms, some of which are accurate and some are not. In addition, independent organizations must also respect one another.
If you perform your function and it results in obstruction, there will be no progress. We are better off doing what is right together.
Investments in the country are not happening as fast as they should, perhaps due to global economic conditions. In the past, investments may not have resulted in much value or new products. Most of them are merely expansions of existing operations. This makes people feel that the country cannot sell as many products, is unable to compete, and has low purchasing power. This administration is addressing this now.
These things may cause problems for employment, as old industries may cease to operate or as companies relocate to countries with better investment incentives or with cheaper labor. We must therefore compete for more investments into our country. This requires us to change the way we think. We can no longer revert to our old ways of thinking and practices.
Investments into Thailand by foreign entities and investments by Thailand abroad will affect employment. The government has been addressing these consequences for the past 3 years. Taking a long-term approach towards solving problems may result in people thinking that progress is too slow. We are doing our best to attain results as quickly as possible. I ask that everyone understands and cooperate.
Finally, I would like to invite everyone to support the free concert titled “S2S: Light of Love,” which features blind artists under the name “S2S” as well as artists from Academy Fantasia. The concert will be at the Thailand Culture Center on Thursday, May 2 from 6:00pm onwards.
This will mark the first time Thailand features both blind singers and high profile celebrities at the same time. The concert is an equal opportunity venue for highlighting the hard work and talent of those who are performing. Reservations can be made through the channels listed below. (Call 02 354 3892-3 or www.dep.go.th)
This is part of the government’s policy to revamp social orderliness, by separating illegal panhandlers from those who are demonstrating their real talents on the streets. Most of the people going through the new policy are blind singers who will be trained under the S2S program as I have mentioned earlier. This program will prepare them to be professional singers who will then be signed with participating labels. I invite everyone to give them your support.
Thank you and I wish everyone happiness during the weekend. Sawasdee Krub.