From the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to Sustainable Development Goals August 31, 2018
Good evening to you all.
I would like to congratulate all award winning local administrative organizations for their outstanding management standards. The contest has been held every year for the past 20 years to honor and encourage all local administrative organizations to improve their managements and services.
All public services and activities must be done based on good governance. This contest will surely give birth to an exemplary local administrative organization. Also, The contest would encourage all local administrative organizations and their personnel to be more active and continue to improve their performances at both individual and organization levels to provide better services for their local communities.
Although the returns are awards and recognitions, however, what I really think it truly reflected is our level of readiness on the issue of decentralization. In fact, we have been working on the issue of decentralization for quite some time. We have already started the decentralization process in order to strengthen local communities who are at the heart of the country’s development. This will in turn lead to the happiness of all Thai citizens.
If you can still recall, earlier this year, Nan was voted to be the “cleanliest tourist place” of ASEAN during the latest ASEAN tourism summit. Apart from Nan, Yasothon and Trang also received similar recognition. We will take pride in these awards.
In relation to the aforementioned awards, I think that other provinces should use them as case studies in terms of hard work and robust cooperation between government agencies and the public. The management of waste begins at home or right after activities in places like fresh markets/walking streets are finished. For the latter case, the locals, tourists, and officials worked together to clean and separate waste.
If we all take good care of our premises, making sure our houses, residential areas, surroundings, streets, and communities are clean at all times. Everyone must treat their community the way they treat their home. Our living rooms are to welcome guests, thus must be kept clean. Public spaces and tourist sites are like living rooms of our cities and nation that welcome guests and tourists, both Thais and foreigners.
Cleanliness is indicative of the quality of life of the community. Thus, this value should constantly be promoted to everyone. The results of everyone’s hard work will not go anywhere else but inside the community. Also, it will help promote sustainable community tourism.
The issue of waste management is one of many issues that I have brought to your attention. My goal is to make you realize that this (country) is our home and we need to help and work together. The government alone will not be able to change the country. Many times, students are well taught in school, but once they step outside the school, they aren’t able to apply what they learned to their everyday lives.
I would like to see people work together to address challenges. For example, the issue of reduction of plastic bags. Many countries had addressed this issue from many angles. Some countries have approached this issue by using price mechanism. People have to pay a little extra for a plastic bag. Although, it is not a big amount of money, however, it has a psychological effect.
These nations are England, Scotland, Ireland, and Israel. This approach reduces the use of plastic by 80% a year. Money paid for plastic bags is used for environmental protection campaigns. In Thailand, Chulalongkorn and Mahidol Universities charge buyers 2 baht per bags, which reduces 90% of plastic use.
I believe there are many measures we can adopt to change consumer behavior when it comes to using plastic bags in a more sustainable manner.
Kho Tao community members and visitors have agreed to abandon plastic bags and resort to cloth bags and backpacks when going shopping. Entrepreneurs, retailers, restaurants, and grocery stores have followed suit. The aim is to make Kho Tao free from plastic bag, pollution, and waste. This way, we can help ease global warming.
Apart from the issue of waste, polluted water is another indicator of an unsustainable development. The Thailand 4.0 policy has to be environmental friendly implemented. Past development in the 3.0 era caused an accumulation of several problems. I can see this both as a crisis and opportunity.
Today, it is time we changed our thinking methods and practical approaches so that we don’t repeat those mistakes. Today, wastewater and polluted water is released into canals, waterways, and the ocean, which is very worrisome. This problem stems from many factors and activities we all choose to pay no attention such as, littering, illegal wastewater discharges from households, stores, hotels, manufacturing plants, and agricultural plantations. The (untreated) water is released to rivers and then eventually finds its way to the ocean. The ocean takes all the waste from land. The Gulf of Thailand takes whatever comes with the 4 major rivers namely Bang Pakong, Chao Phraya, Tha Chin, and Mae Klong.
Therefore, the plastic bags that are in our hands today could one day be eaten by sea animals. I believe we’ve all seen a clip about a short-finned pilot whale that was washed ashore. Forensics found 85 pieces of plastic weighing 8 kilograms in the whale’s stomach.
I don’t want to point fingers to anyone, but I want everyone to realize that it is our duty and responsibility (to protect the nature). The problem will worsen as development progresses. Sustainable development is the development of both physical and mental.
My fellow Thai citizens, the building of our nation will not come to fruition if today we fail to lay down strong fundamentals for the agricultural sector which is the driving engine of our growth, given the number of workers in this particular sector.
Looking back to this day, everything has been improving gradually, even though the progress is slow. We are able to gain more foreigners’ confidence and build more startups and smart farmers. They are the future of the agro-sector. More agro-products are being exported. And the country is continuously moving forward.
The Government focuses on building a solid foundation as the country is moving towards to achieve the sustainable development goal. We are going to build our nation through agriculture. We cannot leave them behind. This is for stability, prosperity, and sustainability of our country. Agriculture is the foundation of the country. If the root is strong, the tree will grow strong.
The agricultural sector will never be strong if farmers cannot stand on their own feet. Today, the promotion of agriculture relies on groups and networks, and the empowerment of farming organs.
Today, we have strong groups of producers such as the Smart Farmer group which has more than 1 million members. We have the Young Smart Farmer group which now has 8,000 members. We have volunteers from the agricultural village project who are supporting 75,000 producers. We have 20,000 groups of agro-housewives with more than 480,000 members.
We have 160,000 members of the youth farmer project. And we have agricultural learning centers across provinces, 882 model agriculturists, and 3,900 groups of the large-scale farming project. These groups were formed as a result of our continuous effort which took some time for us to be able to enhance the skills and the wellbeing of Thai farmers.
As for the policy of rice which is the main crop that feeds people in the country and is grown by majority of farmers, the Government is trying to promote the practice of “large-scale farming” which is a method that can be systematically and effectively managed to achieve higher productivity, higher output, and higher quality, but lower costs.
We have been trying to connect the production sector with the consumers for price stability and fairness. More than 80% of the farmers have expressed satisfaction with the large-scale farming concept, given higher stability, more income, and improved efficiency among community enterprises and cooperatives.
According to the report, farmers have been earning more by 1,325 baht per rai. In the first year, their income increased by 115 baht per rai and 1,211 baht per rai in the second year, thanks to a 17.5% increase in production and a 19% drop in costs.
At present, 170,000 farmers or 1,900 plots of farmland have joined the large-scale farming campaign, covering 2.4 million rai in 71 provinces. However, this is still not enough. We will need more large plantations. Out of the 1,900 plots, 368 of them are operated by community rice centers.
In 2019, we have a plan to further expand large-scale plantations. Priority will be given to community rice centers which were established to create stability and prosperity for local producers. These centers help develop and improve both rice and farmer. Community rice centers are vital to our country development.
Today, there are approximately 1,800 centers across the country. Our target is to have at least 7,000 centers by 2021 or in the next three years. The promotion and development of Thai rice under the large-scale farming campaign will spread across all rice fields and will be connected with the market from upstream to mid- and downstream.
Quality rice strains have been provided to local producers. It is believed that Thailand has been able to produce more than 100,000 tons of quality rice strains. This is not enough. However, this organization has proven to be helpful and was recognized by many agencies and farmers etc.
As for this year’s rice production, many countries have had to endure natural disasters that destroyed several plantations, thus needing to import rice to feed their people. Rice is the main food crop in Asia. This year is another golden year for Thailand.
Last year, we sold 11.63 million tons of rice overseas, raking in 193 billion baht. Thailand is expected to sell at least 10 million tons this year, which will help stabilize domestic prices. However, we still need to work together to execute the “market-based production” policy, not only for rice but other crops as well. We will take this opportunity to change our production behavior to prevent future price slump. Once supply exceeds demand, the price automatically drops.
Most of the time we tend to see that when the price of a product rises, people flock to grow it. However, the existing market cannot accommodate such an influx. When there’s no external factor or there’s no natural disaster in buyer’s countries, rice will exceed demand and prices will be suppressed. This problem happened repeatedly.
If we do not adjust or listen to the guidelines of the state, or fail to utilize digital information, we would know nothing. We will only focus on producing as much as possible, when in fact more output leads to less revenue. Instead, we must produce only what is necessary by taking into consideration market demand. This Government is committed to helping farmers reform. We, therefore, need understanding and cooperation.
In addition, agricultural support has focused on continuously adding value to agricultural products such as mangoes which used to be a backyard fruit. Today, we have supported large-scale mango orchard.
We have used the Agricultural Learning Center (ALC) to connect with mango producers across the country. We have conducted zoning and incorporated technology in supporting area based agriculture, such as tree crafting, pest control, supporting off-season crops, developing standards according to GAP, and laying appropriate logistics systems.
As a result, we have been able to create a Thai Golden Mango brand where over 70,000 tons are exported, generating up to 3 billion baht in revenue for the country. We must maintain the level of quality we have, otherwise they will no longer order from us. Please do not sabotage this industry.
In addition, we are able to plant crops to bring revenue back to the country, such as orchids, durian, longan, mangosteen, coffee, and various other products that can be strengthened. It is necessary for both the state and the private sector to move forward together and strengthen the Pracharat mechanism together that results in a GDP for the agricultural sector of 1.35 trillion baht.
This week, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives will coordinate with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration in organizing an agricultural promotion event between August 30th and September 2nd at Lumpini Park. It is an important event to mobilize the local economies and connect them with the macro-economy. This includes creating jobs and revenue for the people by supporting agricultural products and enabling them to compete in the local, regional, international, and online markets and create opportunities for exchanging information between producers and consumers which will benefit the local economies and help distribute wealth.
It will also directly connect producers and consumers. I would like to invite the public, businesses, and anyone who is interested in this event to visit the event and learn how agriculture can contribute towards nation building and take part in mobilizing the agricultural sector for a better Thailand.
My fellow Thai citizens, in terms of assisting low-income citizens under the state welfare card program, there are currently various measures being undertaken such as supporting purchases of goods through the Pracharat Blue Flag program using welfare cards.
In addition to continuously adding card machines at different vendors, the program has expanded to street vendors and carts who can apply to use the “Thung Ngern Pracharat” mobile application to receive payments from the welfare card without having to use a card machine. This will provide low-income citizens with more options for purchasing goods.
In addition, the Government has provided additional financial assistance for those who intend to develop their occupational skills. Those who make less than 30,000 baht per year will receive an additional monthly credit of 200 baht.
Those who make more than 30,000 per year but no more than 100,000 will receive an additional monthly credit of 100 baht. Most recently, the Government has made changes to this increase where it is deposited in people’s electronic wallets in the last 4 months of the policy.
This will enable people who have received this amount to withdraw cash at ATMs or Krung Thai banks across the country to pay for any expenses they require. If they choose not to withdraw the amount, they can opt to accumulate this amount in their welfare cards. Once this measure expires at the end of the year, the Government will review the results in order to further improve its services to the public.
In addition to utilizing the electronic wallet in adding money for people who wish to undergo skills training, starting August 15th, the Comptroller General’s Office has distributed pensions for qualified elderly citizens who have registered for state welfare in 2017 via electronic wallets. Cardholders aged 60 and above will receive the following:
Those who make less than 30,000 baht per year will receive a monthly credit of 100 baht while those who make more than 30,000 baht per year will receive a monthly credit of 50 baht deposited in their electronic wallets that can be turned into cash.
This addition credit for low income citizens, both for those who wish to undergo skills training or for senior citizens, is meant to add more financial flexibility. We hope that people will use this additional amount to purchase necessary goods and services that produce cash flow in the economy. Other measures of the welfare card program will be on a specific product or service that is pertinent to the wellbeing of the people.
My fellow Thai citizens, another program that kicked off this past July and is expected to roll out service in October, which will serve as another channel for supporting low-income citizens in the long term, is the “basic savings account” service which is a new savings account that various banks will provide for customers.
The account requires no minimum opening amount, no maintenance fees, no application or annual fees for ATM or debit cards, while other fees will not be higher than similar ones in other types of accounts.
People who qualify for this account are divided into two groups. The first group is the 11.4 million low income citizens who hold state welfare cards. The other group is Thai citizens aged 65 and above.
This measure is an important step towards improving the quality of living of low-income earners by providing them with low-cost access to financial services in order to reduce economic disparities.
According to a study by the bank of Thailand and a household study, 30% of the country households have yet to or are unable to open a savings account.
This percentage had increased from 20% back in 2013. The study found that a major obstacle was that the requirement for a minimum opening amount, a minimum balance, and other fees are too high.
These limitations had caused economic disparities in the past. The Government had identified these issues and attempted to resolve them. This basic savings account will enable account owners to conduct financial activities without paying fees.
In the present time, transactions are occurring more through digital channels. In the future, people will be able to utilize this account for daily commerce as well as for their occupations, such as selling goods online which lead to a better quality of life. It will also serve as an entry into financial services that will boost financial knowledge and understanding as well as methods of saving.
In addition, various welfare stipends in the future can be done directly to each person’s bank account. This will improve the efficiency of governmental services. It will also eliminate chances for corruption and fraud. I would like to thank the Bank of Thailand, the Thai Bankers Association, 14 participating commercial banks, the Government Savings Bank, and the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives for taking part in the program and for contributing towards reducing economic inequality which is an important problem for the country. Participating banks may consider providing more benefits in addition to what I have mentioned earlier.
Those who are interested can seek out further information. Those who qualify by being holders of welfare cards or are Thai citizens aged 65 and above will be able to open an account starting in October this year.
I stress that utilizing this basic savings account must be in line with its purpose. If you have more than 50,000 baht in the account per month or have no account activity in 24 months, the bank reserves the right to turn your basic account into a normal account which will be subject to fees.
Lastly, what the Government and the NCPO has done will have an effect on increasing revenue, distributing wealth, and strengthening low income citizens and farmers for the long-run without hoping for only short-term benefits or quick results. The Government, private sector, the public, and social groups must help each other according to the Pracharat mechanism.
I would like to leave you with “the 3 steps towards success” which are think – speak – do. Today, myself – the government – and the NCPO have a “thought” of find measures for sustainable reform. It has “spoken” in a constructive manner to create understanding and elicit cooperation. It has also “undertaken” as an example. Have you started yet? I ask everyone to help build the nation together.
Thank you and I hope that everyone takes care of their health and that all families are filled with joy. Sawasdee Krub.