Sufficiency Economy is Real Sustainable Development: Summary of H.M the Majesty’s Plan By Thitadhammo Aiming to become a selfsufficient economy in the midst of revolutionizing itself by embracing industrialization, Thailand was faced with a need for a set of guidelines to ensure its populace would not be affected by the drastic changes that is about to take place. His Majesty King Bhumipol suggests guiding the country’s development along the lines of Moderation in the speech given on July 18, 1974, His Majesty suggested: “The Development of the nation must be carried out in stages, starting with the laying of the foundation by ensuring the majority of the people have their basic necessities through the use of economical means and equipment in accordance with theoretical principles. Once a reasonably firm foundation has been laid and in effect, higher levels of economic growth and development should be promoted. If we were to concentrate only on fast economic progress without allowing the plan of operation to harmonize with the conditions of the country and people, an imbalance in various aspects would be caused and may bring about failure in the end, as witness the serious economic crises currently faced by many a developed country.” By then Thailand was fast becoming one of the New Industrialized Countries or NIC. This renowned Fifth Tiger of Asia accelerated its economy by expanding and opening up to the free trade system subjecting Thailand to the fluidity of the world market mechanism. This causes huge movements in both trade and capital between Thailand and other countries in the form of long and shortterm investments. However, when investments concentrated mainly on shortterm trends, the Thai economy was turned into a “bubble” economy. Complicated further by the floating of the Baht resulting in a recession of exports, bringing about the collapsed of the economy and crises enthuse. The Baht fell more than 40 percent, public debts and loans soared to record highs becoming a burden to the economy. Thailand was forced to take drastic measures to restructure the country under International Monetary Fund or IMF guidelines. What turned out to be a blessing is now a disaster of immense proportion, unbalanced expansion processes and lack of holistic approach to deal with problems, create a situation where other aspects of the economy could not keep pace with the acquisition of material wealth. All these led to this thought, “Good economy, Problematic society and Unsustainable development”. During this time, His Majesty the King gave spiritual leadership and support to direct the country towards “Sufficiency Economy” and in December 4, 1997, his royal speech gave a broader definition to the meaning of the original phase “having enough to eat and to live” into: “ a selfsufficient economy does not mean that each family must produce its own food, weave and sew its own clothes. This is going too far, but I mean that each village or each district must have relative selfsufficiency. Things that are produced in surplus can be sold, but should be sold in the same region, not too far so that the transportation cost is minimized.” From His Majesty speech sparked a collaborative work between the Office of National Economic and Social Development Board or NESDB and experts in their own fields to further work on synthesizing the royal remarks on sufficiency. After a thoroughly thought out process, His Majesty gave the final revision and the royal approval in November 21, 1999 the guidelines towards a “Sufficiency Economy” as well as for the general public: “Sufficiency Economy” is a philosophy that stresses the middle path as the overriding principle for appropriate conduct and way of life of the entire populace. It applies to conduct and way of life at individual, family and community levels. At the national level, the philosophy is consistent with a balanced development strategy that would reduce the vulnerability of the nation to shocks and excesses that may arise as a result of globalization. “Sufficiency” means moderation and due consideration to all modes of conduct, and incorporates the need for sufficient protection from internal and external shocks. To achieve this, the prudent application of knowledge is essential. In particular, great care is needed in the application of theories and technical knowhow and in planning and implementation. At the same time, it is essential to strengthen the moral fiber of the nation so that everyone, particularly public officials, academics, business people and financiers adhere primarily to the principles of honesty and integrity. A balanced approach combining patience, perseverance, diligence, wisdom and prudence is indispensable to cope appropriately with critical challenges arising from extensive and rapid socio economic, environmental and cultural change occurring as a result of globalization”. In short, the above philosophy entails three key guiding principles: 1. Moderation: This is judgment exercise to take into account our limitations. When we learn of our limitation, we learn too of our capacity and potential. This is the best way to balance our life and such conduct will surely prove us to be harmless towards others. 2. Reasonableness or Rationality: Using our own judgment and rationality to choose the best way to conduct ourselves and live our lives without blindly following after irrational trends of globalization, such as extravagance and over consumption. By choosing our own model of living, we are making rational judgment of what best fit our life. 3. Selfimmunity or Precaution: We must also be prepared to accept and face the impacts change brings about. Whether it’s for the current, future or internal or external to our surroundings, we have to create sufficient savings and learn to become selfreliant without depending on the assistance of others. In short, it is not just about having “the ability to be selfreliant” with “moderation and precaution” in our lives. It is about being unselfishness, not extravagance and to tread “the Middle Path”. This is how we can “immunize” ourselves from the crises caused by external factors that is striking Thailand. In another except of his speech, His Majesty stated: “… to be a tiger is not important. The important thing for us is to have a selfsupporting economy. A selfsupporting economy means to have enough to survive.” Thus, the development of sufficiency extends not only to oneself, but to families, communities as well as to the nation. His Majesty stressed that development must be done in step by step basis starting from building a good foundation for the people to better enable themselves having enough to live on and eat before they can become selfreliant. The initiative as vaulted by His Majesty was applied when NESDB incorporated it into the Ninth National Economic and Social Development Plan that covers from 2002 to 2006. The plan is based on developing a balanced framework in the following aspects: Human, Social, Economic and Environmental. The middle path is practiced as the main guiding principle to help free the country from crises and to ensure security, balance and sustainability in development. The application of sufficiency economy is as follows: 1. At the family or individual level: Each individual must have conscience in their daily conduct and leading a happy, joyful and moderate life. One should carry out a simple life, engaging in proper career to raise oneself and family at a level of sufficiency and to refrain from taking advantage of others but be generous to them instead. 2. At the community level: People must cooperate and participate in the decision making process of the community, developing a mutual learning process as well as the appropriate application of technology in developing the community. Applied knowledge and knowhow must be economical, simple and locally available. The important point is in the application of what is available in that region to solve the region’s problem without relying on high investment or the use of complicated technology. 3. At the national level: Balance is sought through the application of holistic development processes. Social, economic and resources capitals should be taken into consideration. That which is to be produced must be analyzed against the country’s domestic factors, so as to ensure proper guidelines as to what form of merchandizing is appropriate. More importantly, all merchandizes should first meet internal needs before exporting to others. This management strategy lowers the risks and overinvestment is strongly discouraged as this will lead to the accumulation of debts beyond the capacity to repay. With careful planning while keeping abreast of changes and development in the world and through careful management of natural resources and conserving and preserving of the environment to develop the country’s capability in creating innovation and technology, social capitals such as education system should be relied on to help reduce imports of technology and dependence on other countries as stated in the following speech: “In creating things to develop the country and the people’s livelihood, we should observe our work implementation. Apart from great and advanced technology for use in huge productions which require tremendous outputs, each individual should also take into account and discover simple technology in order that business with low capitals can conveniently and practically apply it.” [Ed.: no source] Lastly, to develop a state of selfreliance at every level, the development patterns should be inline with the socioeconomic, cultural and topological conditions of the community while ensuring continuity and sustainability. This forms the important foundation for the overall development of the country. With respect to such visions, Royal Development Study Centers were established to help bring His Majesty visions into practical application, with the first center established in 1997. The objectives of the centers are as follows: “The purpose of the Royal Development Study Centers is to develop farmer’s land by means of land developments, water resources development, forest rehabilitation and application of production techniques in agriculture and animal husbandry and to use the donated funds as the operating cost of the center. The centers will also serve as a central office to conduct development activities to improve the wellbeing of the people in the surrounding areas. Once the farmers have upgraded their living standard, they might consider setting up a rice mill and rice bank in each village to get an opportunity to train themselves, to finally become selfsupporting …” In all, six Royal Development Study Centers were established in the major regions of Thailand. The characteristics of these centers are: 1. Model of Success: The centers conduct studies and experiments into the area’s conditions and using simple, appropriate and economical technology to ensure successful development. With these success models, guidelines are published for the benefit of the public. In retrospect, that which is deemed as failures will serve as caution or could be modified to provide new alternatives. 2. Living Natural Museums: These centers will also serve as an information center for the region’s physical, economic and sociocultural conditions. The purpose is to help others wanting to study and understand the situation from real life perspective. This will help to improve the quality of life as well as the local wisdom of the people in that region. The museum is continuously updated to show it as a “Living Natural Museum”. 3. OneStop Service: Since each center involves representatives from different government agencies such as the Royal Irrigation Department, the Land Department, the Department of Livestock Development and the Department of Agricultural Extension, these centers are more than capable to help coordinate with the various agencies to provide the people with a center for “onestop service”. This will help to reduce significantly the complications of the people seeking the assistance and services from these governmental agencies. 4. Innovation of Administration and Management: Since such projects consist of many interrelated elements such as water, land, plants, animals, fish as well as marketing, the implementation of such projects must be holistic or done in an integrated manner. These centers have applied this theory into their management. It mobilizes the officials from the various public sector agencies, private and nongovernmental sectors to come and work together. Meanwhile the Chaipattana Foundation and the Office of the Royal Development Projects Board acts as the coordinating agency. This is the innovation of the country’s administration and management and it straddles horizontally between the various agencies. This truly targets at the effectiveness of implementing work that is not supported by the country’s traditional bureaucratic system. In conclusion, Sufficiency Economy is not about complicity or resource deluge. It is about the creating of a system that really helps people and any system that helps people must be spearheaded by research and development. Moreover, it has to maintain synergy between the various centers of economies, i.e. the household, business and governmental agencies. What is truly amazing is the application of the Buddha’s Middle Path by His Majesty throughout the entire process of leading his people from poverty to sufficiency.
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