From the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to Sustainable Development Goals May 18, 2018
A very good evening to you all.
To mark the holy month of Ramadan of the Islamic year 1439 Hijri, I’d like to send my best wishes to the Muslim community. I’d like to extend my support to advice from the Islamic committee in the 5 southern provinces regarding the fasting ritual. Followers should strictly adhere to Islamic teachings and principles and take good care of their family members and love ones, making sure that they are following the teachings and refrain from all vices and wrongdoing throughout the holy month of Ramadan.
Also, all followers should help support the Government’s peace-process plan, deny all forms of violence, and not give any support to the insurgent groups so that religious activities during Ramadan can be peaceful. I am certain that all religions teach followers to do good things and think of others. In this regard, I would like to see all followers espouse their religious principles and together mobilize the nation toward peace and unity while at the same time ridding the country of ill-intentioned people who look to stir conflicts, violence, and disturbances.
My fellow citizens, if you’re ever put in a position to mediate a conflict, you’d understand that the difficult part is not about ending the conflict, but about building reconciliation. Adjusting oneself to others by following recommendation of the mediator under appropriate rules can be done only on a voluntary basis. We cannot force anyone. This is a challenge for the national reform process.
Four years of the NCPO can certainly be viewed as a first step of the whole reform process. Some tasks have already been completed due to great collaboration but some are not making progress due to a lack of public understanding. To make matters worse, some people overprotect their own interests and overlook the public interest.
Many reform undertakings have been completed and I will share some of them with you today. Let me stress that reform must be carried out on an ongoing basis. Some reform tasks are time-consuming and require a lot of efforts, especially cooperation from all sides. And, every reform begins at ourselves. We must not stop improving ourselves.
The beginning part of our national reform can be categorized as follows: 1. The first one is poverty eradication in order to improve people’s wellbeing. We started by getting rid of informal debts by putting all concerns agencies to work together to push forward the laws, measures, and projects i.e. the Excessive Interest Rate Prohibition Act, B.E. 2560.
The team also worked on the issues of access to financial loans, debts settlement, and improvement of debtors’ capabilities on debt payment. To increase the payment capability, the team gave advices on financial knowledge and household financial management etc. In addition, 11 million low-income earners who registered in the social welfare card program can receive financial assistance through welfare cards.
The second phase enables them to develop professional skills so they can support themselves. We also focus on 1) the sale with right of redemption law to prevent farmers from being taken advantage of by capitalists and informal creditors and 2) the People Financial Institution law to enable local people to be able to set up small financial firms in their own communities throughout the country. These institutions will have good management and good governance and will receive support from the Government Savings Bank and the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives. 20-30 million people will benefit from these institutions. There are 30,000 firms nationwide.
These institutions have yet to be registered as “legal entities”. They will be further upgraded. The National Savings Fund which encourages Thais to save for their own sake is well managed with tangible results under this Government. The fund now has more than 500,000 members, half of whom are farmers. The fund is now worth 3 billion baht.
Moreover, the Government gives importance to the management of forest, land, and water because they are vital for the production sector. At present, Thailand has 100 million rai of forests or 32% of the entire kingdom. Our goal is to increase forest areas to 40%. We have a 10-year plan to be implemented. This includes the allocation of land for communities effected from the plan.
This will allow people to co-exist with nature. Efforts have been exerted in 66 provinces, covering 1 million rai. Documents have been issued to allow 250,000 rai to be used. 36,000 people in 152 areas of 54 provinces have been given land for income generation.
In addition, we have the national land policy committee to overlook the overall management and the pushing forward concerned laws i.e. the Community Forest Act and the revised Forest Protection Act. Local people will be allowed to grow economic trees on the land they are entitled to, so that they can build a forest filled with valuable trees on their own land, creating their own long-term saving asset. They will be able to sell these trees for extra income. These trees become more expensive with age.
We also have an integrated water management plan. Many may not know that the World Bank’s assessment of the damage caused by the 2011 flood was more than 1.35 trillion baht. To make matters worse, the annual drought season costs our agricultural sector 40-50 billion baht a year.
From the first day, this Government had push forward the country water management strategy. It is now a 20-year plan (2017-2036). The operation is overseen by the Office of the National Water Resources which is acting effectively as a “Single Command” unit. A unit comprises of many agencies. In the past 3 years, 30 small water reservoirs were built in 5 northeastern provinces. 50 water reservoirs were built, with a combined capacity of 1.2 billion cubic meters of water, enlarging the irrigation zone by 1.1 million rai. The development of water control infrastructures has increased water storage capacity from main watercourses by 300 million cubic meters and enlarged irrigation zone by 700,000 rai. The construction of 256 tap water distribution systems has allowed 15,000 households to have access to 60 million cubic meters of water.
We are planning to build additional 3,500 water distribution systems in the next 3 years. Additionally, we will study the diversion of water from Salween River into Bhumibol Dam, a move that will help increase irrigation areas by 1 million rai.
In addition, we are drafting a 10-year water plan for the Eastern Economic Corridor, in addition to the existing 1.3 billion cubic meters of water. The EEC will have an additional 800 million cubic meters of water by 2027 and 1 billion cubic meters more by 2036. This will ensure the stability of water resources for household consumption, the industrial sector, the farming sector, and tourism as well as maintain the country ecological balance.
2. Our next task is to eradicate the existing social inequality. For example, equity under the judicial process. We have revised the Damages for Injured Persons Act and Compensation and Expenses for the Accused in Criminal Case Act, B.E. 2544, which has been enforced for over a decade. Only 20% of the victims have filed for compensation comparing to the police report.
After taking office, the Government has raised public awareness of their rights and increase the effectiveness of the assistance by emphasize on collective efforts of concerned agencies including the Ministry of Justice and the Royal Thai Police. We have also revised related laws in order to promote the decentralization of powers, providing a better access to judicial processes.
Request for assistance can be submitted at police stations and all judicial offices in your area. As a result of our efforts, up to 62% of the victims in 2014 and 86% in 2017 sought financial support. Throughout the past 4 years, there have been around 70,000 requests, 45,000 of which have been approved, accounting for 2.3 billion baht.
Furthermore, the Justice Fund, during a period of 10 years before the presence of the NCPO, only had 13,000 requests and endorsed 5,600 of them, accounting for 260 million baht. After taking office, the NCPO focused on decentralization. As a result, from 2014 to 2015, or two years, 10,000 people got accessed to the fund and the money given to the applicants was 351 baht. With the presence of this fund, the low income earners will have better chances at the justice system. The common phrase “prisons are for the poor” is no longer true. Everyone is now given equal chance to defend themselves. Innocents will be protected from false accusations.
As for the development of Lat Phrao Canal communities, the Government targets 50 communities or 7,000 households. Now 30% complete for the Ban Mankong project which would provide people with better living standards and addresses the problem of encroachment and flood.
The Din Daeng Community Development program has been around for many decades before the Government took office. After taking office, under our management, we have divided the project into 4 phases. The first phase which includes the construction of new flats will be completed this June and the former residents will be able to move back in.
These two projects will help narrow the existing inequality gap especially in crowded communities in the city and will lead to the reduction of crimes and drug related cases. I seek cooperation from people living in canal side communities who may illegally encroached the waterways.
We are making adjustments to help you live better. Please give us your cooperation. Everyone wants to live a good life, but encroaching upon the nature is not the answer. Our solution is not to chase you out. You will be allowed to stay but we have to manage your areas and make it better to prevent problems like garbage, wastewater, water drainage, and flash flood on streets. Therefore, 200 canals in Bangkok must be better managed. Living conditions along canals and waterways have been poor for a long time. Garbage odor and wastewater can cause serious health concerns. We need your cooperation now.
3. Our third task is to stamp out corruption and foster good governance. There are two initiatives to achieve the goal including 1) the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative (CoST) and 2) the signing of Integrity Pact (IP). These initiatives aim for transparency by making information about procurements and construction projects available to the public.
In addition to the agreements, teams of inspectors will make sure all activities comply with the terms of reference (TOR) agreed upon and will inspect proposals, bidding processes, documentation, data collection, etc. This is the responsibility of appointed committees. Further, we have a mobile application called “Where Did Taxes Go?” which can be accessed by members of the public. It provides information about procurement contracts and state projects. Please make useful complaints and give us useful suggestions and do not create confusion by giving inaccurate information. You all can help the Government monitor these projects, making sure every procedure is transparent. The Government wants no corruption. We have to help each other for a tangible outcome. The Government has given a greenlight to procure materials through e-market and e-bidding. We have now witness positive results in the Government procurement area. However, they are challenges with the new system but we are working on it step by step. In 2016, the Government was able to reduce expenses by up to 30 billion baht from 30,000 projects. The budget set aside was 430 billion baht. In the first half of fiscal 2018, the Government was able to save more than 47 billion baht from 61,000 projects. The total budget set aside for these projects was 400 billion baht. Apart from cost reduction, online platforms have tremendously helped the Government ensure transparency in its operations.
Also, we have appointed a national committee to fight corruption and established anti-corruption centers and counter-corruption mechanism at ministries, local governments, and all provinces. The committee is working with the National Anti-Corruption Commission and its provincial offices to fend off corruption.
All Governmental agencies will be required to undergo the Integrity and Transparency Assessment (ITA) to instill a culture of transparency and morality. Moreover, orders have been given to take serious action against corrupt individuals. There are also more channels for the public to lodge complaints against suspicious activities through Hotline 1111, Damrongtham Center 1567, Thai Niyom Yang Yuen application, and NCPO 1299. Corruption complaints can be filed through these channels. However, prevention is always better than solution. To prevent corruption, people need to be taught to be ashamed of their own sin. People need to be encouraged to uphold the 5 Buddhist precepts. Children must be taught to despise corruption and to take part in anti-corruption effort. New curricula are being drafted to cultivate integrity among children.
4. Our next task is to increase the country’s competitiveness in order to gain confidence from investors and the international community. During the past 3 years, the Government economic policies have resulted in 2.4 trillion baht of investments in basic infrastructure such as road, expressway, motorway, rail, electric rail, high-speed rail, sea ports, airports, and distribution centers, which I’ve already mentioned from time to time.
This year, we are going to continue to push for mega projects worth more than 1 trillion baht such as a rail project connecting 3 airports, SRT red and purple lines, dual-rail projects (7 routes), the remodeling of Laem Chabang Port, highways, expressways, and motorways.
Apart from the aforesaid, the Government has invested 30 billion baht in digital and telecommunications infrastructure to improve our education and public health system, connect Thai traders with the world through e-commerce, and increase the country’s competitiveness level.
These investments will create a big impact on the economic development and economic reform, in accordance with the Thailand 4.0 policy, the Eastern Economic Corridor project (EEC), and the promotion of the 10 targeted industries. For instance, in the development of robotics and automation, our goal is to produce 150 models of working robots in the next 5 years.
Then, we will transfer such knowledge and technology to 200 entrepreneurs. Also, we will help 25,000 workers improve their professional skills. It is expected that up to 12 billion baht will be invested in robotics and automation in the first year. The number will jump to 200 billion baht in 5 years, according to the plan.
The Eastern Economic Corridor will be the model economic zone for the other 10 special economic zones (in the border areas) nationwide. At present, the Board of Investment (BOI) is considering 51 investment promotion applications worth approximately 9 billion baht.
In addition, there will be more urban planning, land allocation, investments on infrastructure projects, customs checkpoints, and management of registered foreign workers. This includes improving safety in work environments, water and waste management, environmental conservation, and border security.
On top of these investment programs, the Government places great importance in improving government services, especially making the approval process of licenses more convenient and transparent. This has contributed to Thailand jumping 20 places higher in the latest Ease of Doing Business Report. This makes an impact on our trade and investment.
5. “Raising service standards” to provide convenience to the public and investment programs, such as National e-Payment to allow for convenient transactions by the public and SMEs.
Another example is the Prompt Pay system which now has over 40 million accounts conducting over 127 million transactions worth over 490 billion baht. Efforts to reduce transaction fees for Prompt Pay made the commercial banks stop charging fees on money transfer. I would like to thank all the commercial banks for their cooperation and for providing benefit to the people, business community, especially the SMEs.
On the Government side, we have also updated various payment systems. Debit cards are accepted so that the public do not need to carry cash to the Government offices.
Next, we are going to connect the databases containing information on low income citizens, social security, and payment systems to correctly provide relief and services to the right people. This will help reduce corruption in the Government payment process.
For example, the agreement between Krung Thai Bank, the Comptroller General’s Department, and the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security has resulted in a system that dispatches relief funds immediately, provided that the recipient has a Krung Thai Bank account. This system enables verification of the recipient’s data and entitlements while account opening and maintenance fees will be waived.
They will also be notified via SMS when a deposit is made into their accounts. In the future, those who do not have a bank account can receive money via social welfare card or use e-money card.
In addition, we use more new technologies in the Government services, such as the creation of Agri-Maps that establish 20 year plans for land cultivation in over 6 million Rai, with 1.5 Rai to be cultivated in the first 5 years.
The policy will be mobilized by the 882 Agricultural Learning Centers and the big size farm project. This year alone, over 43,000 farmers have participated in this program, with 160,000 Rai for economic crops, 81,000 Rai for hybrid crops, 19,000 Rai for livestock and 1,100 Rai for fishing. The program encourages a shift towards more lucrative agricultural products, thereby enhancing the quality of life of participants.
Another example is the community digital store that expands on the Pracharat internet project. The platform serves as an e-marketplace, e-payment, and e-logistics platform, beginning with the 25,000 Pracharat Rak Samakkee stores that are appropriately situated within the coverage of Pracharat internet.
The project will then expand to 75,030 villages across the country. This year, the project covers 5,000 villages. On May 25, the project will test the system by selling 125 products from its list of over 1,300 target products and expects to generate income of 6.5 million baht per month.
What is important now for future state administration is the use of the Government big data. I give a lot of weight on this issue. The Government has integrated 4 areas of its database: Security (such as central databases, aerial footage of the southern border provinces, and identity profiles), water resources and weather conditions, which will incorporate with smart systems for management decision making, census and government services data, natural resources, and telecommunications to link various government data.
This information will be useful in decision making on government spending, state management planning, and providing targeted relief. Today, the business sector has already utilized big data in its management systems.
6. “Encouraging participation” to promote unity and reconciliation in society. This is something that I give utmost importance. If we don’t have cooperation from all sectors, all the aforementioned projects cannot be implemented successfully no matter how much budget we have allocated. Therefore, we have a policy to promote public participation in all activities.
From the constitution level, public hearing is part of the law making process with Pracharat mechanism as a drive engine, especially with programs designed to strengthen the country’s local community, such as provincial Pracharat Rak Samakkee social enterprises across 76 provinces. All are still working well. We have developed 3,685 target groups, including agricultural, processing, and tourism groups, enabling over 600,000 participants to generate up to 1.6 billion baht in revenue.
Most recently, the Government has mobilized the Thai Niyom scheme that emphasizes economic growth from within communities according to the King’s Philosophy.
The program requires public hearings to gather information on community needs. The Government has allocated around 150 billion baht to address local problems in a sustainable manner. This isn’t done for political campaigning but in addition to the community development fund. Still, a process of quality inspection and project quality improvement were considered before we allocate 35 billion baht in 2016 and 15 billion baht in 2017. This has enabled government disbursements to exceed 85 percent on average.
The Government’s policy of promoting participation from all sectors under the Pracharat model has brought about programs such as the “Phi Phi Model” which is an example of an ecological restoration program to ensure sustainable tourism.
Its success has been marked by the generation of up to 978 billion baht in revenue within 1 year and 9 months. Previously, it only was able to take in 1 million baht per year, a significant difference.
In addition, the Pracharat model is also a driving force for smart cities such as Ayutthaya, Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen, and Phuket. These cities have invested in various infrastructure that are in line with the country’s national development plan.
As I have always said, the Pracharat model isn’t merely a method of coping, but a way to thrive in a sustainable manner while incorporating the King’s Philosophy. Especially, if we are able to link regions – provinces – districts – sub-districts – communities together with the national reform plan and the national strategy, we will have a clear strategic direction of moving the country forwards.
The most important reform agendas at this time are education and public health. Other important agendas include the management of natural resources and environmental conservation. We are entering a world that is increasingly being digitized. We also face climate change, an aging society, as well as the need to become a society of continuous learning. All these agendas require a lot of money in order to adequately care for all parties.
If we merely focus on treatment and disregard prevention, we will face with an increase in our financial burden and arrive at a deficit in the next 10 years. Today, doctors and medical personnel are working hard with not much of development program due to an increasing financial burden.
We have to help each other, no matter what type of welfare card you are holding, the Government would like to take a better care of you. So, we have to help each other to think how the state will be able to fund all programs.
The Government is responsible for regular expenses, specialized functions, integration, public debt, and investments for the future among others. This includes creating a welfare system for low income citizens. At the same time, it is the duty of the Government to ensure that expenses are in line with fiscal discipline.
The cost of education is also increasing and graduates must find work as soon as possible. However, in some cases, their skills may not be in line with the market needs. People must carefully analyze and think about what they choose to study and choose what they have potential for. We haven’t made many changes to our tax code and our sources of revenue haven’t increased much.
We must therefore work together to ensure that we are able to meet the increasing needs and not create more burdens to the public. It is not useful to have a conflict. It would not be beneficial to argue, but to work for the public and be responsible with spending.
My fellow citizens, myself, the Government, and the NCPO do not want anyone to believe the distorted, dishonest, and irresponsible accusations that the Government hadn’t implemented any reforms. Reform requires new methods and amendments to legislation in order for reform agendas to be successful. Many people say that this administration has merely do the routine works. I would like everyone to consider why the past governments haven’t done anything.
If we begin now in terms of laying down the foundations in all reform aspects and emphasize an economy driven by technology in line with the 4th industrial revolution, we will be able to increase more public participation in digital channels, resulting in more job creation, opportunities, cost reduction, and more revenue generation.
The past Governments hadn’t laid enough foundation; we have to fix old problems while mobilizing new agendas. It would not be fair to say that this Government hasn’t done anything. You will see that we have brought about various innovations. We must also accept that we are trying to implement reform amidst an environment of conflict.
The Government might have to enforce laws that affect the public and make low income citizens feel that they have been abused. It has not been an easy task to bring about reform when laws aren’t respected and the justice system is being undermined.
I want everyone and all political parties that would like to enter politic to come out and say how they are going to implement the country reform. It would be better than saying this Government does not do anything.
I have told you what this Government has done. It is your turn. These people claim that they are familiar with the country’s problems, what are their proposed solutions? It would be better if they can propose new methods, new way of allocating budget, and new way of promoting participation instead of pointing fingers, talking about issues of disparity, poverty, and personal gain. How will the future for the country improve if politicians are still conducting business as usual? The country’s politics must reform itself, starting with politicians.
What should be discussed is how to to enhance the people’s competitiveness and enable low income citizens to be able to stand on their own feet so that they can have a part in national development instead of making them continuously depend on the state aids.
The Government is addressing the people’s debt that had been incurred through informal loans and the debt of farmers that were a result of rice mills and businesses that have taken too much advantage of them. Issues concerning major economic crops such as cassava, sugar cane, palm, and rubber are also political issues that require a systematic approach.
During this reform period I would like to ask the wealthy businessmen to focus less on profits and help with the reform agenda. By spreading profits to the bottom of the economy, you can help low income people be able to goods and care for their families.
If you continue to increase profits in hopes of more profits or refuse to give up any of your perks, it would not be good since the burden will fall on the consumer. Therefore, please think about the wellbeing of farmers and consumers too. Please help the country achieve its reform agendas. It all begins with the heart through sacrifice, generosity, and conscientiousness.
Finally, I would like to leave everyone with a poem that represents the voice of the Government and the NCPO
“Today there are still many opinions whether or not to seek democracy. The pro-election people have said that we have not done enough.”
“It may not be good enough in their eyes, but our work results will sustain for many years. Those that only give will never give enough and people won’t learn and develop themselves.”
“You must begin by respecting the law, refraining from conflict. How many lives have been lost so far? There may not be anyone left for tomorrow.”
“Thais should rethink and find reason and seek development in order to produce happiness throughout. Don’t merely judge an electoral candidate from the outside.”
Thank you and I wish everyone a happy weekend. Sawasdee krub.