From the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to Sustainable Development Goals July 20, 2018

Good evening to you all.

On the auspicious occasion of the birthday anniversary of His Majesty the King on Saturday, July 28th, 2018, the Government will be hosting celebratory activities, including religious and merit making ceremonies for His Majesty King Rama IX and blessing ceremonies for Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, the queen consort of His Majesty King Rama IX and His Majesty the King tomorrow at 6 pm at the Royal Plaza. At 6 am of Saturday, July 28th, there will be alms-offing ceremonies for Buddhist monks and novices throughout the nation and at Thai temples around the world.

In the evening, at 7 pm, there will be nationwide candle-lit ceremonies. In the capital, the ceremony will take place at Sanam Luang and other provinces at provincial city halls or designated areas. Ceremonies will also be hosted at the Thai embassies and consulates around the world.

Along with the Royal Birthday Celebration, the Government has announced July 22-28 a Buddhism Promotion Week, marking the Asahna Bucha Day and the Buddhist Lent Day. The Ministry of Culture and concerned agencies are tasked with organizing religious events that illustrate the prosperity of Buddhism in Thailand for the past 1,400 years.

Also, the Ministry will organize activities in honor of His Majesty the King and all monarchs. His Majesty the King is revered as a devoted Buddhist who work to perpetuate Buddhist principles and a monarch who rules with virtue and righteousness. Main celebratory activities are a grand procession of the relics of the Lord Buddha, which will be the first procession of its kind, along with other sacred Buddha statues, showcasing the prosperity of Buddhism and its teachings which have been preserved by the Thai monarch and public and passed down through generations. Members of the public and spectators of the grand procession are advised to wear white.

On July 22nd, the procession will move from Royal Pavilion Mahajetsadabadin to the Sanam Luang ceremonial grounds. Buddha statues will be placed at Sanam Luang until July 28th for members of the public to pay their respect, and to ask for blessings for His Majesty the King and ourselves.

In addition, the Government invites people from all corners to express our loyalty and to glorify His Majesty the King who has been a role model of gratefulness, longing to continue, maintain, and expand the Royal projects, Royal teachings and principles, as well as follow in the footsteps of His Majesty King Rama IX, and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, the queen consort of His Majesty King Rama IX, with an aim to lift the wellbeing of the Thai people. Activities under the Royally-initiated “Altruistic Heart We Love Doing Good” campaign will be held nationwide on Thursday, July 26th, at designated places. The day that marks the Buddhist Rains Retreat is also the “Thai Alcohol free Day.”

The consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited under the Buddhist precepts and can bring harm to the consumers, their family, the society, and the nation, especially in terms of health. Alcohol leads to more than 200 types of illness, lowers work productivity, and causes fatal accidents and property damage. It is a threat against the development of human resources and the nation.

This year’s Thai Anti Alcohol Day motto says “Reducing, Refraining, and Quitting Alcohol Leads to a Happier Family.” All are invited to hold off their drinking habits during the 3 holy months of Buddhist Lent.

My fellow Thai citizens, I’d like to talk about the issue of water pollution which is caused by waste from households, the agricultural sector, the industrial sector, and tourism industry. Today, the country may not have enough waste treatment systems to cover all communities. Waste created by communities account for 10 million cubic meters a day.

100 local administrative organizations have a combined capacity to treat 3.2 million cubic meters of waste water per day, thus having to release the remaining 7 million cubic meters into nature, prompting the Government to initiate a volunteer campaign to protect waterways, in accordance with the Royal initiative.

The aim of the campaign is to cultivate a sense of responsibility and service mind among the public, so that they know how to contribute to their communities and the nation. Protecting the interest of the whole nation is an important and honorable deed that will lead to peace and happiness.

Moreover, the campaign will help build an immune system for all sectors of society in accordance with the Royal philosophy, focusing on the local people and fixing problems from ‘the inside’ by relying on oneself and strengthening one’s community. Our deeds and contributions will honor His Majesty the King. A total of 606 projects have been and will be initiated in Bangkok and 76 other provinces nationwide.

More importantly, we have to make sure that our contributions today result in continued efforts among local communities. Community members must work together to beautify the landscape, canals, and roads, as well as improve the sanitation and hygiene. I want everyone to carry on these efforts.  Government agencies, local administrations, and the public should be in charge of these operations.

Moreover, waste collectors or filters must be utilized before releasing waste water into natural waterways, as provided by law. We have to help each other protect our precious natural resources. The Government alone cannot achieve our environmental goal, but needs the help from everyone.

My fellow Thai citizens, I’d like to invite you all to use this auspicious occasion as a starting point in joining the volunteer activities to save and protect our precious environment. We will join other 7 billion people around the world to reduce the use of plastic and foam.

Over the past twenty years, Thailand used 45 billion plastic bags a year, 7 billion foam containers annually, and 10 billion non- reusable plastic cups on a yearly basis. We all understand that plastic and foam are non-biodegradable materials as they take hundreds of years to decompose.

Without proper treatments, these materials can cause huge damage to the environment and living organisms. Thailand is ranked number 6 among the world’s worst plastic polluting nations. Many people may have seen reports of a whale and a sea turtle being discovered dead with plastic in their stomachs.

Not only humans that will be affected, animals will also feel the impact. The Government, led by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, has been campaigning for the reduction of waste especially plastic waste in rivers, canals, and the sea. We are discouraging the use of plastic bags at department stores and the use of plastic bottle caps, while installing waste collectors in waterways and banning smoking at beaches in 24 provinces. . Today, I’d like to give you some updates on our anti-plastic bag and foam container campaign entitled “Altruistic Heart : Protect the Environment” under the Pracharat Model which brings together governmental agencies, private sector, and the public to resolve the issue of plastic in a more productive manner.

The Government has announced that these following activities will commence August 1st. The first activity is to have state offices reduce and sort waste as an example for the public and private organizations.

The second activity is to encourage department stores, convenience and grocery stores, and fresh markets across the country to reduce the use of plastic bags and foam containers while at the same time educating the consumers about the issue and motivating them to switch to reusable products such as cloth bags, or you could put everything in one bag.

The third activity is to limit the use of plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic cups, and foam containers in natural parks and zoos countrywide as well as waste separation. And the fourth activity is to manage waste in the ocean in 24 coastal provinces. All are invited to do good deeds with their hearts by using fewer plastic bags when shopping, starting this Saturday, July 21st.

Not only does the campaign for waste sorting and separation protect the environment, it also tremendously helps lower the cost of waste management on a yearly basis. Each year, the Government has to allocate 20 billion baht for waste management whereas garbage fees collected by local administrative offices total only 3 billion baht.

Waste separation will spare the country a large sum which could be used in other areas of development. The aforementioned measures aimed to target consumers.

However, the other side of the coin namely sellers – retailers, grocery stores, supermarkets, and department stores can also be responsible players, caring for our society and the world.

Sellers can roll out incentives to reduce the use of plastic bags like promotions, discounts, credits, and other promotional campaigns that discourage consumers’ reliance on plastic and foam. The environment and its impact are a matter of importance that we can no longer ignore.

In addition, I ordered the Ministry of Interior to be the main unit in collaboration with the Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Ministry of Public Health, and relevant agencies to accelerate systematic solutions to waste and to bring about concrete results promptly.

The Government has established a comprehensive waste disposal center in over 7,800 local administrations that have come together to dispose of the country’s 324 landfills across the country within one month by taking into consideration size and the environmental suitability of each area.

The Government has also called for strict compliance with the laws, regulations, , and concerned cabinet resolutions. My fellow Thais, although overall economy of the country is improving, the people’s wellbeing, especially household debt in the first 3 months of 2018,is still considered stable from the end of 2017. The household debt ratio compared to GDP (gross domestic product), was slightly reduced from 78% to 77.6%, which is still high compared to other countries.

Furthermore, the ability of the debtors to repay their loans has not improved by much as the ratio of bad debt has not dropped. The Government is concerned over this matter because it is a burden to people’s lives. Relevant agencies have closely monitored the situation and have continuously accelerated measures to provide assistance to both debtors to financial institutions and informal loans. These debts are burden and significantly affect the lives of the people, especially low income earners.

In order to fix the issue of informal debt, the Government and the NCPO have continuously accelerated decisive measures. It has established mechanisms that integrate the efforts of ISOC, the police, military, and government officials to provide comprehensive and targeted solutions to the public.

Until now, there are over 15,000 lenders who have issued informal loans to over 350,000 borrowers worth more than 21 billion baht. Addressing the problem begins with debt classification for appropriate negotiation, or making debt compromises to restructure and repay debt.

For example, extending the repayment period or cutting interest rates by adhering to the principle of ensuring fairness to both debtors and creditors.

For those who are unable to repay their loans, officials will coordinate a loan from government institutions, while lenders who do not cooperate in finding equitable solutions will be met with legal actions (if any).

Past efforts have found that most debtors experiencing problems are farmers who are unable to meet their output targets and must list their title deeds to repurchase agreements to informal creditors. When they are unable to repay their loans, their problems will intensify as they can no longer use their land to make a living.

Other groups are those who borrowed money for unnecessary purchases that are not investments for income in the future, making it difficult to fulfill their debt obligations. Of the 350,000 informal debtors in the government’s database, around 55,000 have received assistance in the form of mediation or debt restructuring.

The remaining will also receive support. Those who have been assisted will also receive follow-ups to ensure that they don’t become indebted again. Those who still owe informal debt who haven’t been fairly treated and require assistance but have yet to participate in this program can contact their local Damrongtham centers or government officials in the area.

As for formal debt to banks, the government has established a debt resolution clinic to help people who experience problems paying credit cards, cash advancement cards, or unsecured personal loans where they have non-performing loans, are unable to repay their loans in 90 days, and have bad debt to 2 banks and above.

They can ask for assistance in reorganizing their debt in one session. In doing so, they will be able to manage their debts properly according to their abilities (to pay) while also receiving advises on financial discipline.

Fortunately, the program has adjusted the criteria of those who qualify to receive assistance to cover more people such as freelancers and those who have incurred bad debt before April 1, 2018. It now also accepts borrowers who have already been prosecuted but are pending a court verdict.

Those who are interested in applying for this program or are in need of financial, debt management, and savings information can refer to the details presented on the screen.

The debt resolution clinic will not issue loans for outstanding debts, but will assist debtors to be able to repay their debts according to their own abilities. Sukhumvit Asset Management Co., Ltd. (SAM) will serve as the intermediary agency with interest rates between 4-7% per year with a maximum repayment period of up to 10 years. It will also provide financial education to promote financial discipline and prevent people from relapsing into debt in the future.

In addition to the debt resolution clinic which will alleviate the debt burden of the public, the Government is also trying to address the problems faced by specific professionals.

For example, alleviating debt among teachers, who are personnel that are important to the national development and reform agendas. The Government aims to minimize their troubles and burdens of living so that they can fully serve as “molders” of children.

Past surveys have found a high amount of teachers who are in debt to both formal and informal lenders. Part of this is loans for the funeral support program for teachers’ associates and educational personnel. Over 500,000 are indebted to this program, worth over 400 billion baht. Five billion of this amount is bad debt.

In the past, the Government has continuously implemented various measures to assist and lighten the burden on teachers.

An example is the debt reduction program that started in 2016 in the form of a 4% loan to pay off the existing funeral fund program and to repay monthly loan interests. However, not many people participated.

In addition, 2017 saw the launch a debt restructuring program to provide debtors who incur bad debt to be able to relieve their burdens by stopping principal payments for no more than 3 years while still paying a portion or full amount of their interest owed so that it can become functioning debt again.

Recently, the Office of Welfare Promotion Commission for Teachers and Educational Personnel has asked the Government Savings Bank to allocate their contributions to the funeral fund program to reduce interest rates of borrowers with good discipline and no outstanding debt, which has reduced the interest rate by 0.5-1% or around 2.5 billion baht.

With regard to the debt resolution clinic and various other measures, the Government has initiated these efforts to alleviate the burden and help the people at the “end” of the problem by enabling them to be able to repay their debts according to their abilities, lessening their troubles.

However, the debts are still the responsibility of the debtors. Therefore, preventing debt from occurring in the first place is the best measure that will not cause further complications. It is best to avoid the cycle of debt by starting with personal discipline while the Government serves as a supporting entity. We must admit that certain debts that were incurred are inevitable, especially from needs that arose as a result of natural disasters which caused damages to production. These are scenarios that are hard to avoid.

The Government has tried to assist to the best of its abilities to solve the problem. However, there are still cases of borrowing that are not for necessary spending. What can we do to prevent incurring debts that cause unnecessary burdens to us?

Many people talk about financial discipline and saving for the future. However, for many low earners, this seems to be a difficult task. For me, what is easiest is adopting the sufficiency economy philosophy which is one of His Majesty King Rama IX Philosophies bestowed upon the people of Thailand as a way of living.

It starts from having an occupation to generate income and increasing this income when there is an opportunity. Try to spend in a frugal manner for what is necessary. Keep household accounting in order to see items of income and expenses and make financial planning for the future as well as savings.

I want everyone to realize that what is certain is the uncertainty of life. No one knows when they need to spend on emergency incidents. People must learn how to spend and save in order to better prepare for the uncertainties in life.

When we are not indebted, having assets and savings will make us feel secure and sleep more soundly. In times of emergency, we will have enough money to get by. Savings can be done in many forms such as opening a savings account, purchasing stock, purchasing life insurance, or even planting trees in your land. The Government is pushing for legislation to qualify trees as assets that can be insured. Try to plan your life for a longer timeframe.

Finally, I urge the public and visitors along forests, waterfalls, and oceans to follow the weather forecasts by the Meteorological Department regarding Typhoon Son-Tinh from the South China Sea that will affect the weather conditions in our country. There could be flash flooding and turbulent winds in the areas including Bangkok. Also be aware of billboards and roofs.

Government agencies must prepare assistance measures according to predetermined response plans so that they can act in a timely manner.

Thank you and I hope that everyone and their families take care of their health. Keep on doing good things for happiness, peace, prosperity, and safety for all. Sawasdee Krub.