From the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to Sustainable Development Goals October 26, 2018


A very good evening to you all.

October 21st of every year commemorates the birth of HRH Princess Srinagarindra and also marks National Annual Tree Care Day as Her Royal Highness had contributed and dedicated her time to natural and environmental protection. She dedicated her entire life to the conservation of forests.

Let me give you an example of the royally-initiated Doi Tung Development Project in Chiang Rai province. Her Royal Highness Princess Srinagarindra understood the root of the problem. There were 11,000 people living in 29 hilltribe villages who were forced by poverty to make a living through illegal activities such as shifting cultivation, opium farming, and prostitution.

Because of Her Royal Highness vision and strong desire to see Doi Tung people be able to rely on themselves and co-exist with nature more sustainably, Her Royal Highness, therefore, initiated a project called “Plant Trees, Nurture People” using the people-centered approach and the balance between economic, social, and green development as a core to eradicate poverty.

The Doi Tung Development Project marked the beginning of the restoration of forests, soil, streams, and natural resources. Doi Tung forest has become a watershed forest that houses a proper proportion of both economic and usable plants for the locals. The project boasts reforestation and human development, helping local people to be able to reply on themselves through job and income generation in accordance with individual skills and expertise.

Local professions include coffee and macadamia farming and processing, making handicraft products, tissue culture, landscaping agriculture, and tourism and hospitality. As for the young generation, there is an educational development project launched at 8 schools to help them become capable and responsible adults.

In 2003, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) recognized the Doi Tung Development Project as a model for alternative development that has tremendously lowered the supply of addictive plants, and the sustainable reduction of poverty.

To show our love and loyalty as well as to carry on the legacy of HRH Princess Srinagarindra, or “Mae Fah Luang” which is the name Thai citizens gave to the Princess Mother, and also to adopt one of the teachings of His Majesty King Rama IX which utters, “Trees must be grown in people’s hearts before people have the will to plant trees on land and take care of them,” cabinet ministers and I, therefore, together planted Siamese rosewood as a symbol of our willingness to cultivate the love for forests and the environment among Thai people. Natural resources must be sustained for generations to come.

My dear citizens, if you look closely and deeply, you will see that the principle “Plant Trees, Nurture People” of the Princess Mother which derived from the Doi Tung project provides an ultimate solution to economic, social, security, and environmental issues that are impacting people in three different aspects including the consumption of water, drugs, and poverty.

The current government recognizes these problems and integrates the concept of “continue, conserve, and expand” into its operations and policies in order to bring about the most effective solutions to these issues.

1. In terms of water related problems, we have 3 pillars. The first pillar is the establishment of the Office of the National Water Resources which serves as the main agency for solidarity in the management of water resources from watershed forests, reservoirs, farm zones, to estuaries.

The second pillar is the mobilization of the 12-year water strategic plan (B.E. 2558 – 2569) which is the master plan for water resources management implemented in parallel with the 20-year strategic plan. So far, irrigation systems have improved in 7,300 villages. The remaining 199 villages can expect the same development by 2019. Several dams containing 1.5 billion cubic meters of water received a facelift, increasing irrigation zones by 2.53 million rai and restoring 0.48 million rai of fragmented forests.

The third pillar is the drafting of water legislation which is the country’s first water law. The law will enter into force this year. The law strives for the integration of related agencies to develop, manage, rehabilitate, and preserve natural resources. There will be preventive measures for flood and drought.

The law also provides a mechanism to protect people’s rights and access to the usability of water resources. There will be organizations at national and regional levels including the water consumer to reflect public participation at all levels in water management etc.

2. To solve drug problems, our policy is to think of addicts as people with sickness who are in dire need of help from doctors and nurses at public hospitals nationwide. After having gone through rehabilitation, they, then, can once again live a normal life. The Government will continue to assist them to make sure they have a job and a new and happy life.

Addicts who come forward and ask for help will not have their records tainted and no charges will be pressed against them. In order to return “good citizens” to the society, we have set up the Center for Assistance to Reintegration and Employment (CARE) at 137 correctional facilities and justice provincial offices nationwide.

The center serves as a one-stop service center (OSS) that coordinates efforts and communications between inmates, ex-convicts, civic networks, businesses, and entrepreneurs, helping these ex-addicts find suitable employment so they can start fresh.

We also encourage other organizations to take part in lending a helping hand to the underprivileged who need to make an honest living. Inmates will be able to earn money while serving their time and waiting to start a new life once released. The move is hoped to boost their morale and encourage them to become good citizens.

They can avoid being social liability. According to data collected, from February to September 2018, more than 27,000 people reported to the CARE center. Out of 3,000 job requests, 400 applicants are now employed. 14,000 people have been consulted and 14,500 people have been assisted by the center.

3. Long term poverty eradication through saving.  This can be done in several ways such as (1) through the National Savings Fund. The fund encourages people from 15 to 60 years of age to save money. From high school students, college students, farmers, and freelancers, they all are encouraged to save money – not letting themselves being insecure or risk being bankrupt from medical fees.

Savers will be secured with monthly allowances after retirement, on top of the monthly allowance for the elderly. Generally speaking, you will have two streams of income. The minimum saving is 50 baht a month but no more than 13,200 a year. The Government will then add 50-100% to your accounts according to your age range, as provided on the screen.

To be a member of the National Savings Fund, you can apply through a mobile application. All you need is your 13-digit identification number, the number on your ID card, birthdate, and phone number. As for the welfare cardholders, the Government encourages you to use your cards and you will be reimbursed 1% of your savings.

Cardholders can check their eligibility and apply at all four state-run banks or through the National Savings Fund application. The second way of saving is by growing economic plants in your premises. Not only do these plants secure your financial stability, they can be used as financial collateral. Growing economic plants along with other crops can help better the environment.

As you can see, solving problems in a sustainable manner requires strategies and time. For instance, the Doi Tung Development Project took about 30 years to come to fruition. With the “never giving up” mentality, the project became a huge success as witnessed by Thai people as well as people from around the world.

The “Plant Trees, Nurture People” principle provides solutions to several issues – forests, water, poverty, and drug related problems. A well-managed and systematic operation is like planting a tree which requires academic knowledge, care, and time. The important thing is we have to stick to our goal which is, of course, to build a better tomorrow.

I have good news regarding the results of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Competitiveness Index 4.0 for 2018. Thailand showed an improved rating this year in its bid towards becoming a 4.0 economy.

The country was ranked 38th out of 140 countries worldwide, up from 40th last year. In ASEAN, Thailand ranked third behind Singapore and Malaysia In ASEAN +3, Thailand was ranked 6th among 12 countries, behind Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and China. This clearly shows Thailand’s stable level of competitiveness.
In addition, Thailand is one of the three middle-income nations to be included in the world’s top 40. The other two are Malaysia at the 25th rank and China at the 28th rank.

These scores are the result of in-depth information collected from high-level executives of small and large companies in all industries, comparing the overall economy against 12 pillars and 98 variables.

Thailand has shown strength in its financial system, which is ranked 14th in the world because of its capital availability for the private sector, financial products, access to capital for SMEs and startup, and the stability of commercial banks.

In addition, it also has a robust market size, ranking 18th in the world as companies have convenient access to the domestic market, investments, and export markets.

However, we have a lot of areas that need improvement in order to become a more advanced 4.0 economy. In terms of the competition in domestic market pillar, Thailand is ranked 92nd in the world.

This means we have to have a better free market that players can complete with each other equally and less complicated rules that will lead to more innovation in various fields.

There is also the pillar of skills that is ranked 66th in the world. This is an area that we must constantly focus on to ensure the country’s readiness and we all are up to date.

The Global Competitiveness Index 4.0 is comparable to being a measurement “ruler” that various countries pay attention to. Not only does it rank the competitiveness of each country, but it also points out the highlights and concerned issues, including the potential to draw more foreign investment for further sustainable development.

From my recent meetings with other countries, I’ve learned that many leaders understand and support the development of Thailand, especially its incorporation of the sufficiency economy philosophy as a guideline for national development to achieve sustainable growth, including key goals for reform aimed at transforming Thailand into a developed country with a high quality of living within the next 20 years by striving to strengthen the competitiveness of the country in all dimensions, which is one of its national strategies as well.

In addition, an assessment that has received much attention is the development of human capital, something the World Bank has sought to index under its Human Capital Project which considers the potential of children from birth to the high school level It looks at survival rates, educational opportunities and outcome, including children’s’ health and wellbeing. Creating a numerical indicator that is comprehensive is not an easy task.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) reported that the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation in the United States has created a calculation method based on an analysis of over 2,500 surveys and questionnaires regarding living conditions, educational opportunities, learning, and health.

The data is then processed into a value that measures the level of human capital of 195 countries since 1990 to 2016. The highest ranked countries were mostly developed countries in Europe such as Finland, Iceland and Denmark.

But more interesting is that countries that develop their human resources as “human capital” had better average economic growth than other countries. These countries consist of Turkey, China, Brazil and Thailand. This reflects the country’s past commitment towards developing its people.

In addition, the World Bank and the World Economic Forum agree that in mobilizing national development, human capital is more important than other forms of capital, whether it be machinery or financial capital, because humans are an important production factor that can continuously learn at a relatively low cost compared to upgrading production machinery. Researchers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and the World Bank at the latest ASEAN Leaders meeting cited Thailand as one of the first middle income countries to have an effective universal health care system and comprehensive primary care services such as family doctor clinics. These are what this Government has been improving on. All of these will continue to be a great foundation for the development of human capital in Thailand and this study also indicates that human capital is important in driving the country’s growth.

In the past years, we have improved our country’s health services while also readying the country’s human capital, especially developing skills for our youth and encouraging them to be interested in innovations, scientific inventions, and technology. We have expanded the engineering showdown program to 150 schools nationwide to train and instill the innovation spirit in our youth and developed STEM skills in school through “P-Learn” or Play and Learn because learning that enables Thais to survive in the 21st century cannot be found only in classrooms or curriculums. We must promote research and development that allows for idea expansion.

Finally, in addition to the knowledge and skills that form the basis of human capital, we must also instill good morals.

I would like to invite everyone to see the Khon performance under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit under the reign of King Rama IX in order to pass on Thai culture to the next generation.

The Foundation for the Promotion of Arts and Crafts has performed 7 chapters of Ramakien Khon since 2007.

This year, the Foundation for the Promotion of Arts and Crafts has selected the “Pipek’s Pledge of Allegiance” chapter, which conveys the themes of loyalty and integrity.

It is a combination of the different versions by King Rama I, II, and VI. The performance has been put together with great care.

Performances will take place from November 3rd to December 5th at the Thailand Culture Center in Bangkok. I would like to invite lovers of Khon and Thai culture to watch this once-a-year event.

Before I leave you today, I must remind the people in the southern region of the extreme weather. Southern Thailand will experience heavy rainfall which means it could get flooded in some areas or on the street. Meanwhile the weather in the northern region will get colder while other regions may experience drought due to insufficient rainfall. The seas may be windy. Those vacationing or fishing should pay attention to weather updates.

Thank you, and I wish you and your family good health with joy and safety. Sawasdee krub.