From the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to Sustainable Development Goals June 15, 2018
A very good evening to you all.
Today, I’d like to share with the Government’s policy on creating connectivity between micro and macro economies. Let’s look at the current administration’s achievements during the past 4 years ago. You will see that all economic indexes has improved. Money invested in the stock market increased by 4 trillion baht. The GDP has grown by 2 trillion baht, on top of higher export volumes, investments, and confidence.
However, the agricultural sector has encountered a different story for the past 4 years, unlike during the ‘Tom Yum Kung’ financial crisis which was cushioned by the thriving global economy and the sales of farm produce. This time, we’re faced with the global economic downturn and agricultural price fluctuation, not to mention trade barriers and policies issued by other countries and conflicts around the world which have hindered demand for goods and services.
What the Government is focusing on is income distribution among people in local communities, so that we can ‘grow from within.’ To do so, (1) crop prices must be stable and (2) our local economy must be strong and adaptable. We can no longer rely solely on agricultural produces due to price fluctuations. Over the past 4 years, the Government has spent no less than 600 billion baht to support the agro-sector and 400 billion baht to assist SMEs.
Despite the amount we’ve spent, our efforts were merely to sustain, not to attain sustainability or the ‘growth from within” approach. One way to establish long-term stability is to turn Thailand into a value-based economy that is focused on standards, quality, processing, technological advancements and innovations, all of which strive to increase income per capita, enhance the country’s competitive edge, and penetrate new markets.
Over the past decade, we’ve missed many opportunities to develop and improve our nation. Such missed opportunities were likened to ‘slow pulses.’ Overall, we didn’t have stability. Investors and tourists lost confidence in the kingdom and in their safety. Today, we turn over a new leaf by building stability and improving the potential we once lacked and seizing the opportunities we once missed. This will not be an easy task given how many things that have to be done at the same time.
What’s important now is to make sure that local people have the ability to compete. Local people, farmers, the low-income earners are our target group. It has to be a two-way effort. 1) The production sector must focus on quality rather than quantity. 2) Mega project likes the EEC would help boost our production sector around the country, bringing more investors and jobs. 3) We must provide more opportunities to people. We must build connectivity in basic infrastructures including transportation, logistics, the internet, access to financial loans, and public services. The aim is to enable local people and farmers to be able to make appropriate adjustments to improve their potential, production, income, and trade opportunities.
Today, the Government is speeding up all projects. Many projects had begun. Some are in the second phase. Some are going into their third and fourth phases. Structural problems and people’s needs are being addressed altogether at the same time. Ministries and the public have to make sense of state policies and meet each other halfway, and create seamless connectivity in terms of relations, legislation, and operational methods.
For instance, tourism activities must be better managed so that growth isn’t only realized in large cities. Growth and income from tourism should be enjoyed by people in secondary cities and nearby provinces. I want to ask the public to take part in finding solutions and improvements, resort to legal actions for betterment, and offer constructive and creative suggestions, so that the Government can issue measures that truly meet people’s needs.
My dear citizens, the strengthening of local communities is pivotal. The word ‘local’ refers to the Local Administrative Organization, the Provincial Administrative Organization, and the Subdistrict Administrative Organization. State administration runs from central Government through regional bodies, and to local agencies. The smallest organs are sub-district and village headsmen. In my provincial visit, I always travel with cabinet ministers and high-ranking officers to meet local people and follow up on the implementation of state policies and the work of local officers. This is because I would like all ministries to advance their services and learn more about new policies and laws so that they can better work with the public, fostering more trust and confident between local people and officers.
I have witnessed determination and commitment although there might still be some flaws. I would like all agencies to make sure that their works are meeting demands from the public. Civil servants shall make sacrifices, exercise patience, and always improve themselves. I don’t want to just issue policies and not knowing the needs of those that need them.
Projects that fail to cater to people’s needs are a waste. In the past, budgets might be overspent in the Government supporter’s area while there might not be enough spending the opposition supporter’s area. This Government sets aside budgets and funds for every region, provincial group, province, and community. Budgets are spent for the continuity of development as opposed to particular activities.
It is a must that all projects are in line with the missions of their agency while at the same time augmenting activities of other agencies. As I’ve mentioned before, Governors, district chiefs, and sub-district chiefs have to strengthen their communities, create equality, and carry on with development activities, or else, equality will not be achieved.
Some communities are able to increase income and employment and some communities need stronger infrastructure. A weak infrastructure has been a major letdown as the Government tries to rectify the problem. The public must render a helping hand. The Government, the NCPO, ISOC and responsible agencies are reaching out to people in various communities, not for political purposes, but to gain a better understanding of people’s adversities and support them appropriately. We want to address on people’s needs based on the urgency of the matter. We will make adjustments to our plans and policies based on what we’ve learned from meeting local people. Every visit allows me to learn more and experience new things including the local wisdom and knowledge, collaboration, what communities are working on, and the existing problems.
More importantly, I see the determination of people who wish to learn, improve, and be open to self-enhancement in order to improve themselves and their own community. People believe their strong desire to learn will reward them with success. The positive vibe and amity people have demonstrated truly gives me the strength to carry on and serve the nation. With your support, Ministers and I are willing to fight through all obstacles to move our country toward growth and sustainability.
When the Government rolls out policies and projects based on the data provided by ministries and agencies, it has to follow up on the implementation to make sure those projects are the ones people need. Provincial visits give us insight into what is working and what is not. We give priority to urgent matters we come across during these visits. If the matter isn’t urgent, budget will be sought from the central fund or other funds. This is to make sure urgent needs are immediately met.
However, please be patient with us, given how much budget is needed for every problem to be solved. Areas facing harsh adversities will be the ones reached out to first, so that their problems can be alleviated. Such criteria are based on humanitarian basis. Speaking of inconclusiveness, we allocate almost the same amount of fund to all regions of Thailand, as evidenced by the amounts of funds all the six regions have received which were very similar. Funds are distributed to regions, provincial groups, and provinces, topping up with integrated and policy funds.
Like other visits, my visit to the lower northern provinces of Phichit and Nakhon Sawan proved to be a success. I thank you for the warm and cordial welcome. Please allow me to share with you the positive energy I experienced while meeting with the local people. I hope that the story might inspire you and you might find something useful that can be appropriately adapted to better your living.
For instance, Phichit is a small yet livable city. Many of us call it a ‘bypass’ city. Phichit has adopted the “internal growth” concept. This is in line with His Majesty the King Rama IX philosophy and coupled with the Pracharat and Sustainable Thai Idealism initiatives. In simpler words, local governments and the public worked hand in hand to execute policies and projects in a timely manner without having to look forward to state assistance, in accordance with the government’s concept to promote more public participation.
Another example is the development of Bueng Si fai, a swamp that was completely dry. In 2016, thanks to the Pracharat mechanism which has helped open waterways and eradicates aquatic plants, the swamp that was once empty is now filled with water, along with the 127-kilometer waterway.
This success illustrates the great cooperation between agencies and the public. Those involved in the water restoration effort were the “Leaders Follow In the King’s Footsteps” School, the elderly club, the “Love the King” club, the Phichit bird watching club, and the Bueng Si fai lovers’ network. Their cooperation has seen great results.
The Government provided a sum of 300 million baht for the dredging of Bueng Si fai and another 65 million baht for the construction of a 12-kilometer cycling lane around the swamp. The dredging project, once finished, will increase the storage capacity from 2 million cubic meters to 12 million cubic meters of water, an increase of 10 million cubic meters. Generally speaking, the swamp will become a large retention area with a cycling route where visitors can enjoy the beauty of nature. It will be one of many important landmarks of Thailand.
What we hope to do next is turn Bueng Si fai into a destination for eco-tourism and a habitat for marine animals. In addition, we will give a major facelift to the Phichit Crocodile Auditorium and an aquarium that was built in honor of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. The latter will require a budget of 500 million baht.
Another good example of strong public participation is the recuperation of the Phichit River. It started with the village chief of Yanyao Community, Rucky Sukprasert, and community members cleaning and keeping the waterway filled by diverting water from nearby canals into the river and improving the Dong Setthi water tower which partitions the Nan and Phichit Rivers. As a result, for the first time since 2017, water from the Nan River flows into the Phichit River, bringing smiles and excitement to people in 13 Tambons, 4 districts alongside the river. Phichit River is the ‘river of hope’ that will bring betterment for Phichit residents and those residing alongside the waterway. In addition, people living on the embankments were thrilled with the improvement and founded a civic network comprising representatives from all sectors including Buddhist monks who took part in the project. The funds came from donations and amulet auctions.
The main responsibility of the network is to provide a better understanding to local people and local agencies about changes that have been made to the river and future development plans. The effort will require commitment and sacrifices from everyone. People won’t be able to conveniently cross the river. Some may have to move out of invaded areas. And some may have to assist those affected by river rehabilitation. The group also informs the public about the water situation, existing problems, and exploration, as well seek public cooperation on pipe installation and house removal from encroached spaces. This undertaking relies on the power of people.
The next phase of Phichit River dredging project will be supported by the Government through the collaboration between the Office of the National Water Resources, the Department of Water Resources, the Royal Irrigation Department, the Internal Security Operations Command, and local administrative organizations. These organs will oversee the dredging operation, maintenance, and the installation of Dong Setthi water gates, making sure they are 100% operational so as to keep the Phichit River’s ecosystem healthy. The next phase will cost around 380 million baht. Apart from the power of people in the community that has led to concrete results, catering to the needs of local people, I am very impressed with the determination to apply knowledge to area and community development.
I’ve come across the ‘wisdom’ of a resident of Chum Saeng district, Supoj Khomanee, who has successfully adopted the Royal philosophy into his farming methods, resulting in higher quality and cost reduction. Originally, rice and corn planting relied on natural occurrences and unpredictable seasons. Some years were wet. Some years were dry. Past cultivation efforts have therefore not been that successful.
Mr Supot, who was trained in hybrid farming practices. The training caused a shift in attitude and how to do farming, from an emphasis on volume for trade to being self-reliant for household consumption according to the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy.
He had obtained a loan to rehabilitate his farm, initiate the new agricultural theories, and purchase another 20 rai of land. The land was then divided into a ratio of 30-30-30-10, consisting of 6 rai for rice fields, 6 rai for water, 6 rai for fruit, and 2 rai for living and conducting vegetable and animal farming.
Finally, he was able to improve the lives of his family members, producing enough crops for household consumption and his neighbors. He sold the remaining crops until he was able to pay off his loan in 4 years. There were many other practices that were adopted, such as planting organic rice using organic compost and bio-fermentation to reduce production costs and ensure safety for both himself and consumers.
As for rice planting, he divided his fields into grids with appropriate spacing so that the fish in the rice fields can easily prosper. He released around 500-800 fish per rai.
Farming using groundwater contains rusted iron that is harmful to plants. He therefore pumped the water up in advance to let the debris gather at the bottom and let the water run for around 200 meters to get rid of the iron rust. Another important practice is restoring the soil. Mr Supot proved we can make an improvement on problematic areas. The village of Nong Khoi had suffered from flooding but had no water in the dry season. It also suffered from soil damage because previous farmers had used a lot of agricultural chemicals.
Mr Supot started to address the issue of flooding by creating a 3 meter high canal wall and solved the water shortage problem in the dry season by pumping groundwater into the area and introducing new farming theories to map out the area, enabling a reciprocal model of farming. He also focused on water management by cycling water around the area beginning from the pond to the chicken and duck farms. This way, he was able to add nutrients to the water and consume eggs. The water will stay in this area for 7 days and then be released back to the pond before being released to farming areas which are rice fields and fish farms.
As for fish farming, he had set up a food chain imitating the ecosystem. Initially, Mr Supot used rice paddy for fish farming but noticed a slow growth rate. Upon dissecting the fish, he found river snails in fish’s stomachs and therefore he began farming river snails to feed fish and let water flow into the pond. Other remaining leftovers such as rice bran is used to feed chicken and duck. Rice husk that was previously spread along the floor of the chicken coop was used as fertilizers to nourish trees.
You can see that the agricultural practices of Mr Supot are all implementations of the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy and new agricultural theories that were applied appropriately according to the contexts of the area and the resources available. I believe that this is the existed local wisdom of farmers. Success also replies on implementation. If we were able to apply the wisdom to the whole process, we would be able to increase productivity and income. Even problematic areas can be turned over to yield more income for farmers. I want this example to be an inspiration to our fellow farmers to apply and fight against problems of nature as well as volatile agricultural commodity prices.
Mr Supoj is one of the many village sages across the country. We need to spread their knowledge and understanding about the area, land conditions, and climate to other people. This is also in accordance with the guidelines of His Majesty the King who wishes for us to preserve and pass on what His Majesty King Rama IX had given us for decades.
My fellow Thais, the Government is ready to support the reform of the public sector in all dimensions from the beginning to the end in terms of crop planning, using Agri-maps on land and water to discern suitability for planting different crops and provide information on new technologies that can be used in production. This includes merging into large-scale farms, seed development, fertilizer support, harvesting, as well as developing or processing products, finding markets, and connecting transportation methods. This will reduce costs and shorten the time needed to reach consumers.
In terms of funds, the Government also provides support in a number of ways, including access to credit and subsidies to provide farmers with capital and liquidity when faced with natural disasters. The farmer’s welfare fund, which has a capital of 2.9 billion baht, is proceeding by encouraging farmers to register and grow crops by type and time of year recommended by the Government. When problems occur in the future, whether it is due to price reduction or natural disasters, registered farmers will receive assistance from this fund. These measures will help reduce subsidies or assistance measures required as a result of not being able to control the situation in the beginning.
In the past, we had spent more than 2 billion baht per year. However, assistance according to this fund will save us money and lead to a more sustainable solution.
In addition, more than 75,000 villages across the country also have funds under the sustainable community and village development fund according to the King’s Philosophy and Pracharat model. Some funds have also joined hands, such as the Tung Klong Kan reservoir tourist destination fund which is the result of 8 funds pooling 500,000 baht each to produce 4 million baht.
More can be done with a large pool of funds. For example, improving park landscapes, reservoirs, adding river rafts and water bicycles, and providing facilities for rent in the form of food and drink vendors. Another way to support the adaptation of the local economy is by utilizing technology and connecting with value chains. For example, Thaitrade.com is an online platform that will help small entrepreneurs to be able to grow, help retailers bring goods to consumers, and attract banks and logistics companies to help with payment and shipping.
Currently, there are almost 25,000 users with an aim of reaching 100,000 within three years and add value to merchants through existing sites each year from 5 billion to 10 billion baht a year within next year. It is a comprehensive shopping experience that can be done through one click (of a mouse) in B2C or “business to consumer” format. It has gathered products from small businesses, enabled payments through credit and debit cards from all banks, and is equipped with a logistics system to help in product transportation. All these features are designed to help retailers increase sales.
The online site will help small businesses like farmers and retailers in remote areas to have the opportunity to sell their products online, eliminating distance restrictions. Many people have seen examples from China and now we have started. Next, relevant agencies will assist in finding and developing products for online retail. I am confident that we will be successful as well. In conclusion, the digital frontier is an important foundation for the future world. This is why the Thailand 4.0 policy was introduced. In terms of marketing, in addition to Pracharat markets, the Government has organized national exhibitions as another way to promote sales, accessibility, and business matching.
The OTOP Midyear 2018 event under the theme “Uniqueness from Thai Niyom” on June 9 to 17 at IMPACT, Muang Thong Thani is another important project that will mobilize the local economy and connect it with the macroeconomy. It will also create jobs and generate income for the public by developing the potential of producers and entrepreneurs to be able to develop and raise the quality of their products and services to compete with the market.
This includes local markets – regional markets – foreign markets – and online markets or e-commerce sales which is a current trend. This Government supports national mechanisms that promote integration with all sectors from the beginning – middle – and end routes. Between 2003 and 2015, the average growth rate was about 11 percent. With the full support of this Government, it has helped create a “leap” in the growth rate to 22 percent in the past year. Sales have totaled more than 153 billion baht. In the first half of this year, sales totaled more than 116 billion baht, up 24 percent from the previous year, which will have a positive impact on the economy and income distribution.
I would like to invite the public, entrepreneurs, businessmen, and those interested individuals in supporting local products by Thai people to attend. I hear that the first 4 days of the event generated over 500 million baht in sales and saw over 170,000 visitors. I am happy for our producers. Some producers may not have business cards which can be an obstacle to future business. I suggest that you use LINE QR codes so that you can conduct businesses wherever you are in the world, because it is now Thailand 4.0.
The topics that I have mentioned are agendas that we are working on. I stress that local officials must know what I am talking about and know what this Government has done, even though it is not your direct responsibility. This way, you will be able to provide answers when asked by villagers.
I don’t want Agriculture Ministry officers to be capable of answering only agricultural related questions or Commerce Ministry officers to answer only trade-related questions. Everyone must know in an integrated manner what the Government has done and where people can seek access. Examples include the time when we established a suggested market price for rice.
Therefore, the people must know the prices of jasmine rice, white rice, and sticky rice so that farmers can decide whether or not to sell their produces. If they decide not to, they can store their rice in barns with the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC). When they are satisfied with the price, they can then sell their stockpile. In the past, people in several areas may not be aware of this. Officials must therefore provide more detail. There will be people who are satisfied and not satisfied. They don’t benefit because they don’t understand or don’t know. When asked, they did not get the correct answer.
We cannot inform the public all at once. With local officials, I urge community leaders, the Local Administrative Organization, the Provincial Administrative Organization, and the municipality who are closest to the people to know what the Government does. You must know of the opportunities available and the solutions this Government has provided. This is so that you can connect the needs of the people to the Government.
Finally, we are entering festivities of the World Cup. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage our youth to draw inspiration from sports to develop themselves and the country’s football industry. However, the other side of the coin is the issue gambling.
I’m concerned about this issue and would like to warn and make people aware. No one becomes rich from gambling. Just have fun watching the team you support and become inspired to exercise. Do not engage in gambling. No one becomes rich from gambling, I’d like to stress this message again. This is worse than robbery. You will be indebted to people, they will come and collect, and this will be a burden to officials to prosecute. Many people will miss out on opportunities, especially students and the youth.
I would like to remind all of us – the public and the youth – to avoid gambling. Let’s help each other; otherwise people will blame the Government. Authorities will not be able to handle such workload. Therefore, we must contribute by reducing the amount of violations so that we can seriously crack down on these issues.
As our elders tell us: “The damage of ten house fires is far less than a single gamble loss.” I’d like to leave everyone with this saying.
I hope everyone enjoys watching football without gambling.
Thank you. I wish everyone a happy weekend. Safe travels. Sawasdee Krub.