From the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to Sustainable Development Goals February 16, 2018

Good evening

This past week, Thailand welcomed many foreign dignitaries from European countries including Italy, Britain, and France.  During their visit to Thailand, I had opportunities to meet them to exchange opinions, thoughts, visions, and policies.

The first one was the foreign minister of Italy who was the first European minister to visit Thailand after the European Union resumed political contact at all level with Thailand.  During the meeting, the minister signaled his country’s intentions to strengthen ties and political relations with Thailand, in celebration of the diplomatic ties both parties have enjoyed for the past 150 years.

The Italian minister has praised the government’s works and he said that he will inform the European Union of Thailand’s development.  He also expressed his readiness to provide positive information about Thailand development to the EU in an important area such as our progress in combating IUU fishing. In addition, he commended the EEC policy, as it is a clear long-term development strategy of the country while expressing his willingness to invite the Italian government and private sector to consider the EEC project.

Another foreign minister I have recently met is the UK Foreign Minister, Boris Johnson, who plays a major role in the push for Brexit. His visit has stressed the long-standing relationship between Thailand and the UK in which both countries have enjoyed for the past 400 years.

It is also a clear message of the intention to strengthen cooperation in the areas of mutual interest. Both sides will work on the promotion of trade and investment. I invited investors from the UK to put their investment in the EEC zone.  I hoped that the UK will agree with us in making Thailand a center for trade and investment and a gateway to CLMV nations as well as the ASEAN Economic Community.

At the same time, Britain has a policy called “Global Britain” which seeks to promote free trade to boost its trade ties with countries inside and outside of the EU. Thus, this is a good opportunity for Thailand and the UK to work together to promote trade and investment.

Moreover, the Foreign Secretary congratulated Thailand on moving up to 26th rank on the Ease of Doing Business index.  He also expressed his confidence in Thailand’s democratic development and support our progress in restoring a sustainable democracy in accordance with country’s reform roadmap.

Furthermore, the Spanish ambassador called on me on the occasion of assuming his office. The ambassador has expressed his intention to closer our bilateral
cooperation in all areas including politic, economic, security,   tourism, and people-to-people contact.

We also discussed on increasing Spanish investment in the EEC zone, especially in the industries that the Spanish companies are interested in and has already high expertise such as science technology and  innovation, infrastructure, and energy.  We also agreed to increase cooperation in the areas of fisheries and security to address the issue of IUU fishing and security in a sustainable fashion.

Moreover, the Minister of State to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of the French Republic called on the Minister attached o the Prime Minister’s Office.  France and the EU has expressed hope for the resumption of discussion on a Thailand – EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

France is also interested in investing in the EEC zone, believing that the EEC will be a competent hub for trade and investment that connects to the rest of the region, including the ASEAN community. France is interested in putting their investment in the infrastructure development projects such as high-speed rails, deep sea port, Smart City, aviation maintenance center, and other construction projects in Bangkok. This will also promote the transfer of technologies to the local personals.

Not only do the visits by high-profile officials from 3 European nations reflect the significance of our long-standing diplomatic relations, but they also reflect the development in the ties between Thailand and the European Union, after the EU’s resolution on December 11th, 2017 to resume political ties with Thailand.

These Visits showed that the resolution is well abided by. This has surely cemented Thailand’s acceptance in the global community. Especially, many key democratic countries around the world have witnessed the Government sincerity and commitment in carrying out its policy to constructively resolve problems and reform the country for the benefits of Thailand and allied countries.

My fellow Thais, we all should be proud that The International Budget Partnership (IBP) has released a report on the Open Budget Index (OBI), a comparative measure of central government budget transparency. Thailand scored 14 points higher than in 2015. Its ranking improved by 28 notches. The survey was conducted based on 3 criteria which are

1) Budget transparency which was assessed based on accessibility and amount of available information and time allowed for the public.   For Thailand, in the past year, the Bureau of the Budget has upgraded its data system and started to provide a more comprehensive information in the areas of treasury and budget online, improving public access to the information.

For example, the information that has been made available to the public on include People’s Watch which demonstrates how people will and have benefited from the Government expenditure as well as the information on budget distribution in provinces.

In particular, the information on local administrative offices budget specifying details of the budget in the documents attached to the State Budget Act.  The information is also available online. The Ministry of Digital Economy and Society has issued an online report on “Where Did the Tax Go?” to show the effectiveness of budget spending.  Information are provided by the Bureau of the Budget and the Comptroller General’s Department. The move aims to promote freedom to access information in accordance with the Official Information Act by using new technologies to improve public services.

2) Public participation in budgeting process.  For Thailand, since 2017, Section 77 of the 2017 Constitution   stipulated that the Government must listen to all concerned parties and take their comments into consideration before proceeding the budgeting process.

The Bureau of the Budget has been holding public hearings to collect opinions from concerned parties including the public through its website. Please visit the website to find out more.  Mandated by the new Budgetary Procedure Act, in the future, the local administrative organizations will be able to receive and request the government budget. This will promote public participation in the budgeting process and the money will be spent in a way that meets the needs of the locals.

3) The third element is active audition by both the legislature and the independent organizations under the Constitution.  The new Budgetary Procedure Act of Thailand requires the Bureau of the Budget to evaluate spending effectiveness of all agencies.  In the lawmaking process, the legislature must have procedures to prevent private interests in issuing government spending budget laws.  Lastly, the Office of the Auditor General shall be an agency responsible for inspecting all budget activities.

The improved ranking of Thailand on the Open Budget Index not only significantly reflect the transparency in budget processes among governmental agencies, but will link to other rankings issued by  international organizations such as the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) issued by the Transparency International as well as the World Competitiveness Ranking by the IMD World Competitiveness Center. The country hopes that the OBI ranking of Thailand will influence other indices, which will lead to a more confidence and positive perception among the international community.

We must continue working on these issues so that they will stick with us in a long term.  We must make it better.  These notions are part of the Thai Niyom initiative. We must incorporate not only good thoughts but reasonable thoughts into ourselves in order to make sure that our activities and our society shall continue holding good Thai values as well as international concepts.  Both strives for sustainable development.

As for the country’s image and rankings, many people may perceive them as irrelevant or unimportant, but please allow me to inform you that these things are important in terms of building confidence in international relations, politics, social development, trade, and oversea investment. It will cater to Thailand’s needs to bring in big investment in new and valuable technologies.  This kind of investment requires a high level of trust and confidence.

Thailand has a lot of rooms and potential for investment.  Investment will bring more benefit to all parts of our economic and society. Therefore, everyone must improve themselves and learn new technologies in order to increase our competitiveness.  So, we can complete better in the world.

In the big picture, all businesses shall form groups and networks. If we continue to have a lot of single unit businesses, it would be difficult to go to the next level.
It is clear that many nations give a lot of weight to the EEC project or, at least, they are looking into the possibility to joining the project. This is why the Government attaches importance to the implementation of the EEC project at all levels. This is the first and following wave(s) of our economy reform.

Priority shall be given to industries relating to food, tropical fruit, public health, and tourism, as we have a lot of potentials in these areas. Food is one of the four (important) factors for life.  We must be able to meet our domestic demands and after that we can export our produces to other countries. A large number of people will benefit from such undertaking including farmers and low-income people.

Digital technologies such as the internet of things, robots, and artificial intelligence are innovations that will enhance the efficiency for businesses and improve the quality of living for the people. Most important is the human resource development.  A 4.0 society is one of learning, understanding, and coexistence with nature.  Society are like trees in a forest. They must be diverse in capacity symbiotic in existence. The same goes for people.

We must support people of the old analog generation and help them adjust to today’s changes. At the same time, we must support the role of the new digital generation who have the right mindset. We must make sure that they are given the support they need. The government has sought to realize this aspiration through project such as the Pracharat internet project which aims to increase access to education and public services and provide occupational opportunities.

The people simply need to maintain a work ethic of constant learning and self-development, which is one of the principle concepts of “Thai Niyom” that will lead the country to sustainable development.

I have two examples of self-development.  This is after the Ministry of Commerce had worked with the Thai Chamber of Commerce in creating a comprehensive strategy for the sale of fruit. This plan serves as a guideline for concerned agencies to benefit farmers and fruit trade industry as part of the country’s overall vision.  This was on the news last week.

I myself have been following the news from constructive sources from websites and social media. One day, I came across the success story of new entrepreneurs in fruit processing who were featured in the show “Young Self Made Millionaire”

The first example is a fruit drying process that is able to preserve the nutritional value of the product, thereby producing a snack that is a much healthier alternative to conventional crispy snacks. These dried fruit snacks are sold in many countries, including in ASEAN, Japan, China, and the United States.

The second example is a soap making process using Thai fruit, which is now enjoyed by over 20 countries. What I see in common in these 2 cases are,

1. Being motivated by what they like and is familiar with.

2. Obtaining more information on production, processing, marketing from experts, online sources, as well as in-field experiences in order to improve on the product to meet market demands. This is because different markets have varying preferences of Thai fruit.

3. Improving language skills in order to communicate with and penetrate different markets. English is an international language while Mandarin will also unlock a huge market. The languages of neighboring countries are valuable as well because of the existing ties and confidence in Thai products. A lot of room to grow.

4. Courage, perseverance, and hard work. Both cases were not successful immediately, but had to overcome obstacles and had at some points been on the brink of failure. Nevertheless, they pressed on until they were successful. I admire them.

The government’s role in this picture is to ensure that everyone has equal access to job and job-creating opportunities through policies such as investing in transport infrastructures to link production areas to markets both onshore and offshore. The Pracharat internet program enables people to seek out information, advertise their products, and be featured in e-commerce sites.

In addition, community financial institutions serve as a source of local funding, as I previously mentioned last week. I hope that these two examples serve as inspiration or for many people to continue to pursue their careers as well as their dreams to become a business owner. You will see that success isn’t easy, but it isn’t too hard either if we persevere. I hope everyone is able to reach their goals.

My fellow Thais, Social equality comes from maintaining a balance between people through development or welfare. For example, disabled citizens who had registered with the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security are eligible for aid, development programs, and rehabilitation according to the 2007 and 2013 acts for the support and development of disabled persons. As of September 15 last year, up to 1.8 million people are eligible.

When examining the databases of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security and the Ministry of Finance, we found that

1. The last registration round for welfare had received over 14 million applications and had approved 11 million. Of this number, over 700,000 people were disabled. However, there remained over 1 million people in the database of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security who did not register for the state welfare program. We must find out the reason of their absence.

2. Of the 700,000 disabled people in the database of the Ministry of Finance, around 25,000 never registered with the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security and therefore have not been receiving assistance.

This is why it is important to modernize databases. At the same time, what’s important is that the beneficiaries must pay attention to these programs. Otherwise, they will not receive the benefit even though they are eligible.

Therefore, in order to assist these 2 groups and ensure that they aren’t left behind, the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security has tasked the provincial centers for disabled persons to work with related organizations to mobilize the following:

First group of around 25,000 disabled citizens who had registered with the state welfare program but not for the disabled person aid program will be encouraged to do so in order to access services that they are entitled to.

The second group of around 180,000 disabled citizens who are registered with the disabled person aid program but not for the state welfare program will be encouraged to apply in the next round. In the meantime, they will receive preliminary assistance in the form of stipends and necessities equivalent to the state welfare program.

Mobilizing our Sustainable the Thai Niyom scheme requires integrating the databases of all ministries and local agencies into a big data center So, government agencies can draw from this information to create appropriate public policies.

It is a way of incorporating modern technology in state administration according to the Thailand 4.0 agenda in addition to enhancing the efficiency and ethical management of state budget.

The festivities happening during the Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day shows me that Thailand is a multicultural society that has long existed in harmony. It is a form of the Thai Niyom scheme that values peace. Tourism is also another our way of life, as we are a country abundant in natural resources.
Moreover, it is a sunrise industry. We must therefore preserve the environment and ensure safety at our tourist destination as well as maintain a sense of hospitality for our visitors.

I had the chance to visit Oon Ai Rak Klay Kwam Nao festival (winter festival).  I was delighted by the Thai culture. We must never forget our past and our benevolent monarchy. I also sensed the joy that people had around me.

Thailand is a society of warmth and smiles. It is a multicultural society that is united. Therefore, do not let anyone divide us. I would like to invite you to visit the Oon Ai Rak Klay Kwan Nao festival (winter festival).  The festival will be open until March.

I would also like to promote the new website and mobile application of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports called “ThailandTourismDirectory” designed to promote tourism in Thailand for both Thais and foreigners.

This website and application contains accurate, high quality, and up to date information on Thailand’s tourist destination, serving as a big data center for tourism. The database supports Thai, Mandarin, and English. People can access this information when planning their trips.

Information available include destinations, activities, travel routes, as well as hotels and lodging that have been certified. The information will be continuously updated by the original source in communities across 77 provinces in Thailand.

Information will be verified through the digital tourism center at the provincial and national level before being published. I invite everyone to visited the website or download the application. Please also share it with your peers, especially foreigners in order to support the country’s tourism sector.

Presently, the government is promoting tourism in 55 secondary provinces across the country where visitors will receive up to 15,000 baht in tax deductions when traveling to these destinations throughout this year.

I would like to thank all volunteers who have volunteered to help the country, the Oon Ai Rak Klay Kwan Nao festival (winter festival), as well as those participated in community services programs. This is Royal initiative of His Majesty King.  His Majesty the King would like to see Thai people take part in the development of our beloved country.  Cooperation should also be given to projects under the Thai Niyom scheme in order to ensure that the needs of the public in each regions are going to be addressed correctly.

Thank you, and I wish for a happy weekend and throughout Valentine’s month and the Chinese New Years for all Thais. We are a country of many religious, beliefs, and ethnic backgrounds. Sawasdee Krub.

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