From the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to Sustainable Development Goals September 28, 2018
Good evening to you all.
The current administration recognizes the importance of building a strong, prosperous, and sustainable nation, which is part of its Thailand 4.0 initiative under the new economic model.
Today, I would like to inform you the progress of such initiative and approaches to expedite the country development. We have a new model called “BCG” which aims to streamline economic development. “B” stands for bioeconomy. “C” stands for circular economy. And “G” stands for green economy. Many of us may wonder why the Government is combining these 3 concepts together as an approach to mobilize the country’s economy. Please allow me to explain 1) The BCG model can be implemented along with the King Rama IX Sufficiency Economy Philosophy, 2) the BCG model strives for a progressive economy without leaving anyone behind, and 3) the BCG model helps a country achieve the sustainable development goals of the United Nations whose desire is to lift the wellbeing of people around the world in all respects.
Let me elaborate more. The concept of bio economy is centered around our own strength such as biodiversity, a global hub for agro-products and top them up with advanced technologies and innovations to create more values for our biological resources and agricultural products.
The concept focuses on the balance between the economy, society, and environment. There have been many examples. Therefore, we must never stop to explore new knowledge, learn from others, and be open to changes. For instance, we have the riceberry rice which is a highly valued product that was developed using modern technology.
We have cosmetic products and supplements that are made of natural herbs. This increases the value of Thai herbs. We have the production of ethanol and biodiesel that helps reduce the imports of fuel by hundreds of billions of baht per year.
As you can see, the bioeconomy gives the agricultural sector more opportunities to create added-values. We no longer sell raw material, but process them into sellable goods using science, technology and innovation. Bioeconomy is also a mechanism for equal wealth and income distribution throughout the nation.
Most importantly, it has generated no fewer than 16.5 million jobs nationwide, in the agricultural and industrial sectors, accounting for up to 50% of all jobs available in the country. The value of bioeconomy stands at 3 trillion baht or 21% of the country’s gross domestic product.
Circular economy is an economy system that creates the ‘highest’ value out of our precious natural resources while keeping waste at a minimum (zero waste) by optimizing the production sector, reducing the use of water and energy, and deploying clean technology.
The method highlights waste prevention and lowers environmental impacts from planning to production process and the selection of materials that are reusable and/or recyclable.
A good example of circular economy in Thailand is the transforming of waste and wastewater from the production of alcoholic drinks into fertilizers, resulting in less expenditure on chemical fertilizers. Circular economy plays a big part in the reduction of waste which seems to increase year after year, from 24 million tons in 2008 to 27 million tons in 2017.
Each year, there are accumulated waste and discarded items thrown into rivers, canals, and the ocean, causing waterways to deteriorate and killing marine animals. The Government has launched a campaign to reduce the use of plastic bags and to reuse them.
The private sector is addressing the product at its source by developing products that are lighter and slimmer, yet more durable and reusable. Another example is that we can make biogas from waste to cook food. This effectively turns waste into energy. It is a long way to success if everyone doesn’t cooperate, if everyone doesn’t separate waste, and if we (all) don’t change the way we use natural resources.
Lastly, green economy is a concept of economic development that was brought in to address global environmental issues that were caused by our actions in the past including overpopulation which was followed by an increasing demand for consumer products such as food and energy as well as more demand for farming and residential areas. The reduction of natural resources is the outgrowth of economic development. Deterioration stems from the quantity of waste released that is larger than the amount the world can handle. An economy that takes into account environmental and natural resource sustainability, and the value of the environment is the economy that leads to sustainable growth. If every country focuses only on growth without taking into consideration the balance of nature and the environment, there will be no sustainability.
With the increasing demand for goods, it is predicted that in the next 30 years even resources on 3 planets wouldn’t even satisfy the world population. Thus, everyone and every country must understand the importance of balance and sustainability, hence the so-called 4.0 era.
In recent years, we all have encountered the impacts of climate change, late monsoon seasons, and the wrath of nature including floods and drought, indirectly affecting certain professions but directly affecting fellow farmers. As for solutions, not only do we have to rely on science, technology, and innovation, but we must have compatible policies and plans, so as to create new value to existing products and services while looking for new platforms. We must make the best use of our resources and provide rehabilitation accordingly. Actions that can be adopted now include replacing chemical substances with natural ones, switching to disease-tolerant crops so that there is no need for pesticides that can cause health and environmental issues, and reducing waste in the industrial sector or turning waste into usable materials. What the Government will do next is expedite investment in research and studies to develop new technologies and innovations that are compatible with the nature of Thailand, turning the country into an exporter of innovations as opposed to a buyer.
The ultimate goal is to achieve the BCG model – bioeconomy, circular economy, and green economy – for a better quality and sustainability. Public cooperation will be a key to achieving the goal we set out to achieve. As the end of the rainy season is near, the Government urges fellow farmers to plan their activities ahead using past experiences and lessons learned to prevent recurring problems like off-season rice farming which leads to an oversupply of the crop and decreasing prices. The cabinet has approved a Pracharat project to encourage rice farmers to turn to corn production after the rice farming season.
At present, the prices of Thai rice are high. One of the ways to avoid rice prices to drop is to not let rice farmers rely solely on the sales of rice grains, instead they have to look for an alternative crop (to grow) that is also in demand and grown in manageable areas in terms of water supply. Maize is that alternative.
Each year, cattle ranchers and farmers need around 8 million tons of animal feed whereas the country only produces half of the amount. There is demand for another 4 million tons. The Government is willing to offer 2,000 baht per rai for farmers to grow maize.
Such financial assistance will come in the form of a loan of 2,000 baht per rai, but not exceeding 15 rai per farmer. The Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives, the loan provider, will collect only 0.01% of the 4% interest rate from the borrowers and the remaining 3.99% will be the government’s burden to be paid off in 6 months.
However, I have asked that entrepreneurs help buy maize for animal feed at the price no lower than 8 baht per kilogram, and they have agreed to comply. Should the farmers follow the rule, they will rake in a net profit of 2,000 – 3,000 baht per ton, which is relatively more than rice farming. Maize is a good alternative to rice during the off-season farming because it has higher value. This way, there will be no oversupply of rice, nor price slump.
This is the Government’s initiative to overhaul the farming system. Farmers should not grow rice whenever they want. It has to be well managed and we must look into the future and make preparations accordingly. This is the principle and mechanism the current administration is using.
Also, we must pay attention to water supply and soil quality. Some farmers have been growing rice in areas not compatible with rice farming. The Government today provides a better alternative, encouraging farmers to grow different crops or crops that yield high returns. However, this is up to the farmers as they will be the ones dealing with the consequences of their decisions. Sales channels are also provided.
Fellow citizens, we can no longer deny that innovation is vital to our country in all aspects, apart from the BCG economy that I have already mentioned. According to a report from the National Innovation Agency (Public Organization), countries around the world including Thailand have been polled about their innovation capabilities by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) which is an organization within the United Nations.
The survey is called “Global Innovation Index.” The index ranks Thailand at number 44 out of 126 countries surveyed. Thailand moved up 7 places from number 51 last year. 2018 is the 4th consecutive year since 2015 the country’s rankings improved. In addition, Thailand was placed 5th among developing economies with high innovation capabilities.This reflects the efforts of all sectors and the determination of the Government in mobilizing Thailand through innovations and creativity under the Thailand 4.0 approach, an important mechanism for country building and development.The Government emphasizes the modernization of its policies and regulations as well as basic infrastructure in order to build an ecosystem that is conducive to the progress of science, technology and innovation where large, medium, and small businesses are put in the same circle, allowing them to compete in the free world.
More recently, the Government is bringing in startups into its public administrative system and public services, playing host to a startup fair titled “Government Procurement Transformation” on the theme “unlocking restrictions and improving startups for Pracharat market” on September 28-29 at Impact Muangthong Thani. The fair gives startup businesses access to state procurement projects which are valued at around 30 billion baht or around 1% of the fiscal budget. Moreover, the fair creates a new dimension in enhancing governmental innovations for services that will serve the Thai people in the digital era. Expected cashflow during the two-day event is no less than 1 billion baht.
Before the cabinet meeting this past Tuesday, I had met and saw the potential of representatives of five successful startups who have received government contracts. They are ready to develop enhanced government services such as
1. A situation monitoring platform that is capable of connecting to different devices such as CCTV cameras, dashcams, personal cameras, and drones so that the control center will be able to view and analyze footage from various devices and perspectives within a single system.
2. An online platform for psychiatrists, and patience that enables video calls via desktop computer or mobile phones for convenient and private counseling.
3. A comprehensive restaurant and service center reservation application which has been well received due to its practical and widespread daily use, especially its hospital and doctor reservation system via smartphone which has received over 1 million downloads and 150,000 users per month.
4. An innovative and sustainable tourism model which received an award from the “Booking.com Booster 2017” competition out of 700 teams from 102 countries, garnering over 11 million baht and contributing to the development of 70 village tourist destinations, generating for them over 20 million baht in revenue.
5. An event organization platform to support the growth of the MICE industry which is now a prominent sector in Thailand in hand with its tourism sector. The country has received interest from both government and private sectors domestically and abroad in organizing events due to its readiness and service measures. We must be able to maintain this positive image.
Next week, Innovation Thailand Expo 2018 will take place from October 4-7 at Hall 98 at Bitec Bang Na. This year, the National Innovation Agency (NIA) has organized a new innovation-themed festival, the first of its kind in Thailand.
My fellow Thai citizen, measures to support new innovations, whether it be for the purpose of security, the economy, society, or the environment cannot be successful by merely organizing exhibitions.
We must dive deep into the education system in both the theoretical and practical fields. The Government has implemented various measures such as multilateral vocational curriculums which are the result of agreements between educational institutions and agencies in organizing courses where the student spends a portion of their time at the school and another portion at the workplace. In other words, they are both students and staff at the same time, receiving workplace experience, compensation, degrees, and certifications at the same time.
Please let me give you an example of an extra activity. A course on road safety for children by students at Chai Nat Technical College which is an innovative solution for society.
The course is based on a workshop format where vocational students come together to design and run activities to educate and raise awareness of road safety for themselves and their communities. Notable Innovations include a smart helmet that issues a warning when it is improperly worn or an alarm for when motorcyclists forget to lift their kickstands, a common and dangerous scenario,as well as road safety courses for kindergarten students designed as games to create familiarity with various traffic signs and public relations campaigns on inspecting the performance of motorcycles before riding them. This program received support from the King Prajadhipok’s Institute and the People’s Safety Foundation under the project “Driving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): A Case Study Using Participatory Democracy In the youth to strengthen road safety “to prepare people in our society by encouraging youth in schools to take part in social responsibility and instilling a sense of awareness about road safety. Thailand is reported to have high road accident statistics. Therefore, the Government are focusing on traffic safety and work on the issue together with all agencies for a quick tangible solution.
The program also complies with the World Conference on Injury Prevention. This year’s event will be held from November 5-7, 2011 in Bangkok by the World Health Organization and the Thai government via the Ministry of Health. The activities by the vocational students have been found to be very successful. At the end of the project and the lesson, students say they are proud and more aware of safety. I see it deserves to be expanded to various institutions across the country to reduce losses in human resources due to road disasters – an issue that we need to resolve urgently.
Respected citizens, human capital is a very important factor in driving the country’s development. This government has had measures that focus on the development of human resources in all dimensions and all ages throughout the past 4 years.
Efforts to improve the health of the people according to the Thai Niyom Yung Yuen framework of the Ministry of Public Health consists of 4 main activities, namely,
- Developing the potential of over 1 million volunteer health care officials in villages across the country to be able to effectively work closely work with the community.
- The “1,000-Day Wonderful Project” which is the promotion of child development via community networks to grow up as mature adults and quality citizen of the country.
- Career development programs for low-earners such as enhancing skills – knowledge – Thai Massage to ensure employment and income for themselves and their families, as well as programs to support more patients in hospitals. And
- the follow-up program for drug addicts through the committee on quality of life development and healthcare at the district level to improve people’s wellbeing, health, and family support system to be free from drugs.
This program supports a Pracharat-like mechanism to improve the quality of life of people in the area by focusing on the people at the center especially children, the elderly, the disabled, chronic non-communicable diseases, waste and the environment.
There are also family doctor programs. Based on research, family doctors will be able to reduce the cost of travel to hospitals by 1,655 baht per person, reducing waiting time in major hospitals to 44 minutes from 3 hours, Reduce the mortality in newborns by 10 to 40 percent and reduce the cost of healthcare by 25 to 30 percent. It also saves the country 50 billion baht per year in health care costs.
Recently, Bloomberg has compiled an index on healthcare system performance to rank countries in terms of healthcare value between cost and average life expectancy. In 2018, Thailand was ranked 27th in the world from 56 countries, improving from last year by 14 places.
The country made the greatest leap in this index. The cost of health care in Thailand per person amounts 7,086 baht, an increase from before. The average age of the Thai population this year has risen to 75 years.
In addition, the report also stated that Thailand’s health tourism sector has made significant progress. If looking at the Asia Pacific region, Thailand is ranked 9th. The World Health Organization considers Thailand a prototype of universal health coverage, calling it a sustainable system because it reaches a lot of people. There are more than 48.8 million people, 73.7% of the population of approximately 67 million, are eligible for this program covering treatment, disease prevention, health promotion and rehabilitation as approved by physicians without having to pay any money.
However, universal health coverage (30 baht for all diseases) remains “incomplete” for many health services. (1) It can only be used at public hospitals. It may be difficult for those who are far from state hospitals.(2) It does not cover basic treatment such as insemination for childbirth, infertility treatment, medical services for cosmetics, sex changes, etc.(3) It does not cover treatment with a dedicated budget, such as mental illness where the patient needs to be admitted for rehabilitation over 15 days, drug rehabilitation, injuries due to car accidents. These cases need to refer to related legislation for coverage. (4) It does not cover chronic diseases and patients who are hospitalized for more than 180 days, unless absolutely necessary, such as complications.
Therefore, this Government has elevated universal coverage by adding privileges to its users providing drugs, vaccines, medical devices and services such as (1) Opening an off-hour clinic for the hospitals that are ready to accommodate people who wish to be serviced in the evening and voluntarily pay some service fees. (2) speeding up the creation of basic benefits packages. This will be a privilege that people in all public health insurance receive. (3) The Thai government fully supports the national health insurance system that is not leaving anyone behind, including the general public, fragile groups, local health funds, and the elderly. (4) Access to rights and services among fragile groups. This is a population that has difficulties accessing health services such as people living in border areas, inmates, monks and the disabled. (5) Participation of local administrative organizations to stimulate and accelerate the local health coverage fund in order to improve people’s wellbeing and prevent diseases from spreading. (6) Care for the elderly through the “Long-Term Care Fund” mechanism for elderly citizens requiring assistance as well as health promotion and disease prevention due to the group being frequently sick and requiring more healthcare costs. And (7) Universal Coverage for Emergency Patients (UCEP) in all areas for those admitted at private hospitals outside the 3 government funds (Universal Health Care Coverage Fund, Social Security Fund and the Civil Service Welfare Fund)
In the future, it will be extended to other funds to provide more coverage so that there is no disparity in emergency medical care. This will protect the rights of emergency patients and provide them with access the medical services without the condition of being charged any medical costs. In other words, they are waived from having to pay for medical costs within 72 hours or after they have recovered from the critical phase.
Thank you. This is a development in the Thai healthcare system. The Government has made improvements to universal healthcare because since it has already been established, we must make improvements and solve existing issues. We must look forward and consider how we can keep up with rising costs each year. Thank you again and I wish for everyone happiness and that all families are filled with joy. Sawasdee krub.