From the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to Sustainable Development Goals December 22, 2017

Good evening dear Thai citizens.

The New Year’s Festival is a tradition where Thai people send regards of happiness and well wishes to others. I’d like to take this opportunity to send my best regards for happiness and good fortune to everyone. May you succeed in all your endeavors, especially through your resourcefulness and determination.

Along with well wishes and blessing, we all need to be able to confront our challenges in order to succeed. We all need to use rationality, science, and the wisdom from our experiences, even in failure, to move forward and encourage each other.

Next week will see an end to the north-to-south charity marathon initiated by Artiwara Kongmalai, aka Toon Bodyslam. I hope that they achieve what they set out to do while maintaining good health. I thank him and his team for bringing happiness to the people during these past two months.

I thank him for being a bridge for the Thai people and for fostering love, unity, and a sense of community as well as companionship throughout his 2,000-kilometer run. I thank him for encouraging the public to take more care for their health. From now on, I would everyone to take a step forward together for a brighter future, for a better tomorrow, through stability and prosperity.

My fellow citizens, the government and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) have not only been preparing traditional ‘New Year’s gifts’ for the Thai people every year, as a way to help citizens lower expenses and ease hardships, but what I also wish for is to make our nations prosperity sustainable as a gift for our children and the next generation. Therefore, we need to focus on national administration through state-public collaboration while espousing the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy of King Rama IX.

We also need to espouse His Majesty the King’s guidance for our 20-year National Strategy and successful reforms in all respects. We need to reform our country and so far good progress has been made. Reforms are constant and not a matter of before or after an event, and they all start at the individual level.

I believe everyone understands this and that we all can take part in shaping the country’s future after the New Year festivals. We all should be prepared both mentally and physically, for future changes and challenges. Good things are bound to happen. I would like all of us to take pride in the positive changes that are on the way, changes that we’ve strived for together through all these years. We need to keep helping and supporting each other. All Thai people, no matter what background, can come together to create positive change that benefits all.

Talking about ‘presents’ for the people, the NCPO and the government are expediting our efforts in every aspect, fixing new and old problems for continuity and sustainability. Many problems have been resolved throughout the past 3 years. Many projects have come to fruition. We must not forget that our nation has achieved many good things, a result of cooperation in the form of our Pracharat. I’m sure that everyone can recall many of the things we’ve achieved, which has also received much attention from the international community.

There were problems that accumulated for over many decades that tarnished the country’s image, thus affecting trust and confidence among the world community. This did not just include the matter of a democratic system but also trade, negotiations, and our international relations.

These issues had an impact on our leverage, as we were not able to comply with many international regulations.  However, with our efforts, progress has been made on many issues, such as:

1)  Complying with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) on ivory trade.
2) The International Civil Aviation Organization withdrawing its red flag on Thai civil aviation.
3) The government has made anti-human trafficking a national agenda and has been able to address the severity of the problem, but that doesn’t mean we have been 100% successful, as we need to do more.  All of us need to be vigilant and authorities need to be meticulous in enforcing the law, while business owners and entrepreneurs also need to comply with the laws. So far Thailand has been removed from the US TIP Report Tier 2 Watch list.
4) In terms of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, the government in early December sent its latest report to the European Union about our ongoing efforts, which are in compliance with international standards. We need to focus on inspection, investigation, law enforcement, and legal cases against violators. We also need to work with the fishing sector, helping those in need, while employing legal principles, and sound political and economic policies.

I have to thank all fishing entrepreneurs and operators. Without your active cooperation, we would not have made progress. Everyone is in the same value chain and can benefit, whether large or small, depending on various factors. The focus here is to create a balance while sustaining our resources. Many problems have been fixed. Of course, some groups have been affected by the law, but the law must be respected. Therefore you need to make adjustments and changes. The government is doing its best to take care of you.

And 5) In terms of the protection of intellectual properties, the United States has announced that  Thailand has been removed from its Priority Watch List thanks to the country’s improving intellectual property (IP) protection and enforcement. Thailand status in this index was adjusted to its best position in 10 years. The government had declared war on piracy and infringements of intellectual rights for the past 3 years, particularly by fostering a social conscience on the matter, and cracking down on infringements.

This resulted in the United States acknowledging our commitment due to concrete results. We’ve amended many related laws that were outdated. Now, we have more inspectors, in line with the current trading situation and market size. There were also structural problems that had to be addressed. We had to increase the number of officials to work on this issue. Now we have enough of them for inspection work.

We are processing requests for product certification and cutting unnecessary procedures, as well as acquiring more equipment and IT machines for the protection of intellectual properties. Security agencies – police, military, ISOC, DSI, AMLO, and Customs Department – have been assigned to prevent and suppress patent infringement related crimes as well. All this requires continuous efforts. Thailand was also the only nation considered by the United States during this time.

These achievements were possible through cooperation from all. Many people had to adjust and make changes. We had to do the right thing, even if it meant businesses were impacted. The government, as well, was indirectly impacted by these ‘grey businesses’ as they were in violation of the laws, and the money from these illegal businesses has now been removed considerable from the grassroots economy.

With that said, we must choose to do the right thing and refrain from illegal activities, even if it means that we have to struggle at first. Those who used to make living off grey businesses will have to stop, otherwise, the same problems will reemerge. At the same time, we will come up with measures to assist these people so that they can have a sustainable future.

I believe that the progress we have made in this area, will positively affect our economy and society. This is in accordance with the vision we set out, which is “stability” leads to sustainable prosperity. If we choose to do the right things today, though income will be less at first, everything will gradually improve. If we make an honest living, everyone will have access to opportunities.

Many groups and people have made money from illegal activities and by trespassing into unauthorized areas. Nevertheless, the government is determined that everyone will have an opportunity to make an honest living. It may be difficult at first and I have to apologize for this. But please think about what I said today. I don’t want to see people struggle. But if not today, when will this problem be fixed?

My fellow citizens, for this new year, I ask that everyone try look at problems from a different angle. It is time we turned problems or crises into opportunities. We need to turn our problems into cooperation and work together in the form of our Pracharat, which means that the government, the public, civil society, and the private sector work together to move the country forward. Together, we will be able to resolve all issues, large or small.

For instance, the province of Kalasin is ranked 76 in terms of income. The city is surrounded by high income provinces. What should we do? We cannot leave Kalasin behind. The same goes for 20 other low-income provinces. Bangkok is excluded from the 76-province list. How should we help these 20 low-income provinces? How can we connect them with the rest? We will not leave them behind.

Eight provincial groups need to find solutions, moving from province to province, region to region. We are administering the country from a comprehensive viewpoint. There are provinces, provincial groups, and regional groups. The Executive Committee on Development of Special Economic Zones (ESCAP) has been established to strengthen work foundations, top-to-bottom cooperation, and budget management.

Development plans need to be developed by local agencies who understand the needs of their people. There are many elements to be factored in. Connectivity must be created to bridge activities in the upstream, midstream, and downstream levels. All professions are connected in the supply chain. And through this chain, stability will be created, along with the implementation of the National Strategy and Thailand 4.0 policy, as well as the adoption of technological innovations.

A good example of this is the “Police I Lert U” mobile application which allows users to report criminal activities to the police. I mentioned this two years ago. We’ve come very far since then. The Royal Thai Police has already made this application usable for people throughout the country, not just Bangkok and its vicinity. Criminal activities can be reported at 191 centers and will be picked up by GPS tracking system.

This allows officers to access sites faster. Police stations and security agencies need to be on a round-the-clock standby. Every call must be answered in a timely manner. According to the latest survey, more than 200,000 people have downloaded this application. I recommend that children, women, the elderly, and persons with disabilities have this app in case of emergency. It is not only for criminal offenses, but it also helps save lives in general.

We cannot predict our future or when we will have health problems or encounter incidents. This mobile application will certainly be useful during the New Year or special occasions when people will be travelling.

In addition, there are other mobile applications that will be useful to Thai people. Please visit the application center called GAC. The center has a lot of apps that can make people’s lives better. Please try them out. This is one way we can adapt to the digital world.

Also, I’d like to take this opportunity to encourage the public to take part in volunteer activities nationwide. There are many social services in many areas that you can be a part of. We need to keep these volunteer activities going, be they security related, public health related, or activities for the betterment of the society. Members of local communities can help officials in their areas.

I would also like to ask the private sector to look after volunteers in their respective areas, in terms of budget assistance and the provision of necessities. Please help take care of these people, because private companies are close to the people in the area. Today, we have a special volunteer group under a project initiated by His Majesty the King. These volunteers are contributing to the nation and their community. This is why we need to support them every way we can.

The private sector – business owners and entrepreneurs – can lend a helping hand in order to look after the people, especially those with low incomes. These people have debt problems, poor living standards, and health related problems. There could be a mechanism through a volunteer program to help these people.
By doing so, your company will be appreciated and trusted by those you support and members of the general public. In addition, the mobilization of the 10 targeted industries is another vital part of the Thailand 4.0 agenda. These industries will be developed in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) and in other 10 special economic zones in the future.

A survey by the Board of Investment of Thailand showed an improvement over the past 3 years. For instance, there have been more than 6,300 investment projects, accounting for 2.7 trillion baht, especially investments in the EEC areas with more than 1,700 projects or 1.3 trillion baht. EEC investments alone account for one third of all investments. Their combined value is almost half of all investment values supported by the BOI. This will surely help create jobs and income as well as connect the country with the world.

The 5 existing industries are agriculture, biotechnology, electronics, automobiles, tourism, and food processing. These are the industries that have to be modernized. They will be expanded with the adoption of new technologies, equipment, and machines. There are 1,800 projects related to these industries, with up to 1 trillion baht in investment.

Additionally, there are 5 new S-Curve industries including digital technology, medical science, petrol-chemical, robotics and machinery, and aviation, with almost 1,500 projects and accounting for 0.3 trillion baht. These investments are for our future, particularly in preparation for an ageing society and the shortage of labor. These two things must be done simultaneously.

These development projects are indicative of political stability in the country and the government’s clear policies and strategic national administration, which have regained investors’ trust and confidence. It takes great confidence to make such a substantial investment into our country. This is the good news I wanted to share with you tonight.

So, I ask people to please listen to the government’s advice, so that you can prepare for changes in the nation and around the world, especially our youth, students, and workers. You must be able to seize career opportunities. What we do today is for a better future for everyone and we want people to have better living standards all-round.

Let me move to the topic of democracy. As the prime minister and a citizen of this country, I would like to exchange my thoughts and opinions with all of you. What I’m about to say comes from a book called “Digital Economy” which was composed by Don Tapscott, an author who also wrote “Wikinomics” and “Grown Up Digital.” Digital Economy was translated by Pornsak Urajchatchairat.

If we look around us, we will see that countries around the world have similar political challenges. The larger the population, the more political problems each country will have. According to Tapscott, it is more common that people avoid exercising their voting rights, not including those that have expressed opinions against political parties. This analysis was based on his observation of other countries around the world. In the past 20 years, fewer people exercised their voting rights including England, France, Germany, and the US. Countries with 90% turnout in 1992 declined to only 66% in 2012.

In this sense, it can be observed that democracy under a House of Representatives may be outdated in today’s world and has developed into participatory or inclusive democracy. What can we take from this book? What will likely happen in the future?
Tapscott presented 5 principles in his book.

The first one is honesty. Tapscott is of the opinion that politicians are the core of trust building among the public. Elections must be held transparently. Politicians must be open and just, and communicate with the people with facts. They must be trustworthy and open to people’s opinions sentiments. They must not violate the basic rights of their citizens, nor can they wrong or defame other people. I myself, have been trying to do this and have never made accusations against anyone, and I certainly will not retaliate to anyone who has.

The second principle is responsibility. We must not support greedy politicians who use money to seek power or personal benefits. We have to be able to distinguish personal interests from national interests and to tell right from wrong. There are laws regulating projects to prevent corruption and this problem has to be fixed definitively.

The third principle is cooperation or mutual support. An effective and stable government derives from the public and the private sector and the people helping each other to build strong communities where everyone understands their roles and responsibilities and citizens can find a way to work together for mutual benefits. This principle is very similar to our Pracharat approach.

4. Empathizing with the people. Politicians and the government can share and create understanding among the people easier through technology, such as the internet, which is another tool that can enhance public participation in areas such as budgeting and policymaking. This is another form of public participation in democracy.

5. Transparencywhich would boost credibility and trust between all stakeholders. Building transparency requires responsibility and honesty.
I think these points should be considered by all sectors, as a study based on information from abroad.

Regarding the country’s economy, many people, whether they be academics, politicians, or the media, who have either good intentions or otherwise, have criticized the government’s work on addressing poverty and other economic problems in the country.

I would like inform you that we have not been able to resolve every single problem within a short time frame of 3 years. Many of these problems have been persisting for decades. Therefore, the government, whether it is the NCPO or an elected government, must take responsibility and continuously find new approaches.

This is because the problems that we face are deep structural issues, especially regarding wealth, which has been based on our differences in society, occupations, and personal capabilities.

These are facts that cannot be avoided. We need to address the various aspects of these issues concurrently and within our democratic framework, which involves free trade agreements, international treaties, and trade and investment laws.

These various issues have compounded over decades, resulting in wealth disparities between the top, middle, and the bottom, which has continuously widened. Given this, how do we help each out?

This is the reason why unequal opportunities exist. So, we need to brainstorm how we can effectively address this matter together. Therefore I would like to invite the people who are criticizing the government to help consider how we can narrow this gap in ways other than symptomatic fixes of simply throwing money at the problem. How do we earn enough revenue, and how can we find solutions based on international best practices?

Thailand cannot do things as it pleases, because it is bound to various legal obligations. The government and the NCPO are trying to find appropriate measures to address these problems, such as reorganizing public administration to ensure equitable coverage and fairness.

Each province may also contain its own unique situation and require contextual solutions based on its strengths and weaknesses. We need to implement solutions at a regional level, using a top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top approach while also connecting small, medium, and large sectors.

It is difficult to implement every measure simultaneously because there are many low-income citizens in the country in various occupations. If we only allocate our budget towards assisting the agricultural sector, we will not have enough to invest in building roads, developing water resources, or raising the standards of living.

We must therefore prioritize and allocate budgets accordingly and figure out ways to group occupations together throughout the value chain of production, processing, and marketing. An example of a working solution is the creation of the Pracharat markets, as well as the Khlong Phadung Krungkasem market. These markets feature 5-6 star products while OTOP markets sell 7-8 star products.

We must therefore develop the country by taking into consideration the potential of each region as well as supply and demand, so that our solutions are in accordance to the different needs and capabilities of each region.

When I say that we need to create an urban society in the countryside, I don’t mean that we must move everyone into the city. Instead, we need to bring the city to the countryside by introducing means of communication and the exchange of knowhow, instead of each person minding their own business and not being able to connect with each other. Some communities are too distant from each other and even lack access to public water works.

In these remote communities, some are without land to conduct a vocation and must borrow money to invest, often creating a vicious cycle of debt throughout their entire lives. In the future, their children will be dissuaded from agriculture. When this happens, how will the country feed itself?

We must therefore distribute to these ratios appropriately. We must ask how we can, through public administration, allocate the budget towards education and knowledge that would bring about constructive change. The Ministry of Education needs to consider how we can equip people with the proper knowledge to live a prosperous life, instead of just having degrees.

All countries must address their issues using education, especially democratic countries. In a society of free commerce, we need to address issues by enabling people with the ability to solve their own problems while the government provides necessary assistance.

These problems often begin when a country changes it governmental system. I read studies on this subject, which reveal that once countries transition to democratic systems, wealth ownership becomes differentiated, as the right to own land and assets enables certain groups to secure more land than others, causing disparities.

When there is free trade and more opportunities for investment, people with more capital can multiply their gains, resulting in a wider wealth gap and more accumulation of land. This is how free trade works and it is based on the laws. The government therefore, needs to address this imbalance, also by adhering to existing laws.

Those who are successful in business can accumulate more capital, wealth, and profit. In the end, those without wealth or assets become laborers and employees who live off salaries.

If we look at the distribution of income, it is concentrated at the rich more than the bottom, who are employees or labourers. This is in accordance to the mechanism of democracy and free trade. It isn’t surprising to see the economies of all countries, including Thailand, are connected with large corporations.

The richestaccount for 1% of the population while the well-off account for 10%. Within the remaining 80-90%, up to 60-70% are people with low income. This disparity is due to the fact that the profit shares flow mostly into the hands of landowners and investors. If they accumulated this wealth through legal means, it would be unjust to ask for it back.

These people must also bear the brunt of investment risk, with a chance of losing their capital. Through effective management, they are able to accumulate wealth. According to today’s business principles, they are entitled to the majority of the profits because they put up the most risk. Income is therefore distributed to employees and laborers at a lesser ratio.

For example, 35% percent is allocated towards the top while the remaining 65% go to the bottom. However, there are less people at the top, while the rest need to contend for the 65%, which results in small shares for each person.

This is how free commerce works. So, we need to now ask ourselves how we can better distribute wealth. Fairer income distribution is a common issue in free markets. We must therefore create new value chains that garner a larger share of revenue. We must also consider how low income citizens can create their own ventures.

New businesses have no choice other than to form as cooperatives and community enterprises due to their lack of capital. The government will be able to provide support for these groups, so that they can increase their activities. In the future, these organizations will have more leverage in the market. This is why it is important to provide education to the public and the agricultural sector.

We need to equip people with knowledge about laws, regulations, and the principles of free markets. Farmers need to know how to gauge demand when planting crops. This is why I encourage the agricultural sector to continuously seek education and knowledge and utilize digital technology to seek information about such issues as seeds, crops, water, or pest management.

If people continue to rely on old/outdated practices, such as  continuing to rely on chemicals, they will not be able to make improvements.

In the past 3 years, the government has committed its best efforts. There have been some hindrances, and our approach has been rejected by certain groups who think that state wealth alone can solve these problems. This is not feasible because we have other responsibilities and must promote other activities as well. We are not alone in this world and we are part of the global economy.

Everyone needs to continue to learn and contribute by proposing solutions, instead of continuously criticizing and politicizing issues. It is not constructive. It is easy to implement simple solutions that please everyone, but these approaches will continue to ignore the problem as the country’s challenges increase and become more complex.

As our populations rises and disparities widen, if we fail to distribute wealth appropriately and people lack the motivation to develop themselves, we will have more conflict, which will hamper the country’s potential to develop as a democratic system in the long-term.

Because of this, I wish for everyone to understand why the government and the NCPO refuse to resort to short-term and temporary fixes. We must instead build a strong foundation and a structure that would enable income sustainability for people in three aspects:

1. Strengthening the agricultural sector and local economies by supporting existing occupations while also introducing new smart farming practices to promote self-reliance and product improvement.

Creating Large-scale farming ventures that are run by farmers and supported by the government. The creation of farmers cooperatives ensures quality practices, fair pricing, efficient product, as well as effective marketing.

Supporting local products that are GI certified in order to add value to specialized products, while also utilizing the Pracharat mechanism to boost revenue for communities.

2.  Enhancing competitiveness, such as by developing a new generation of farmers that utilize innovation, supporting SMEs by enabling access to capital and providing management skills from large companies, and attracting investment in infrastructure in order to reduce operational and transportation costs.

3. Providing opportunities for farmers and small businesses through various markets such as the Pracharat and community markets, while also supporting SMEs and startups by helping them to access foreign markets.

Developing the potential of OTOP products and developing e-commerce channels in order to expand sales channels for farmers and SMEs. We must remember that as the population increases, our resources and opportunities become scarcer. It would therefore be increasingly difficult for people without land and capital to seek opportunity.

At the same time, free market systems will become stronger. For example, western style development based on rapid growth may not be sustainable and could lead to exacerbate existing problems. Past surveys each year revealed that the number of poor people in Thailand has decreased by a very marginal rate each year.

All sides need to help consider where the problem lies and how we can address the root causes in a sustainable manner, whether it be the government, political parties, or political groups.
Democracy and a free market economy are related systems. It is a system that is widely accepted as the best form of government and economic system. However, all systems have their drawbacks.

We must therefore consider how we can implement measures to prevent various risks and mitigate side effects. Once we have decided that we want to be in a democratic system, we need to collaborate in a participatory framework according to democratic principles.

We must begin today and stop blaming each other, while leaving the courts to decide what is legal and what is not. The only New Year’s gift that I ask for is a constructive and civil dialogue in the country.

If we don’t address issues today, the next government will need to confront them anyway. However, we can no longer do things like we used to do, because I’m sure that the people will not accept the way the budget has been handled as before. We have reformed many laws and encourage our successors to do what is right.

Please don’t use the agricultural sector as a political tool again because it benefits neither the people nor political parties. Using the excuse that the only way to solve the problems for the poor is to hand out money to them is detrimental for the country and our people.

I hope that we all consider how we can help address these persistent problems more efficiently. There are many issues that require examination and adjustments to suit today’s contexts. There are new problems that arise every day due to changes that happen in the world. We must examine how we can move forward with an appropriate state welfare system as well as various savings programs.

We must also create a new system to replace systems that are flawed. We must incorporate academic knowledge as guiding principles. Once we develop our thinking based on this, we can focus on ‘how to do’.  I hope that people who will enter the political landscape will take into consideration how we will manage our resources and how we can adjust our taxation system.

If we cannot achieve these agendas today, we must address them in the near future and must not let these problems continue. We need to encourage more public participation, trade, legal reforms, and support investment. There will be sacrifices along the way, but if we don’t make adjustments, we will fail to seize the opportunities for the future. If we fail to address our problems and make some sacrifices today, the magnitude of what we must give up in the future will intensify and we could fail as a whole. Let’s help create a stable and sustainable democracy that promotes inclusiveness and public participation, especially in addressing our problems.

Thank you, and I wish everyone a happy weekend. I hope everyone makes vacation plans that take into consideration the safety of yourself, your families and others. Sawasdee Krub.

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