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Vol. 24 No.1
January - March 2007

ISSN 0125-0159

Editor's Note
Special Feature
Sufficiency Economy
Dr. Sumet Tantivejkul: The Philosophy of Sufficiency Economy for the World
Pattani Salt: The Fair Trade Culture of Buy Ten and Get One Free
The Mekong: The River of Life and Culture
Biodiesel Comes to Fuel Users’ Rescue
In Focus
Recycling for Art’s Sake, at Wat Suwannaram
Apae Amor, the Outstanding Akha Guide at Akha Hill House
Thai Touch
The Diving Paradise of Ko Tao
Keyword Search

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Dr. Sumet Tantivejkul: The Philosophy of Sufficiency Economy for the World

In the opinion of Dr. Sumet Tantivejkul, speaking on Sufficiency Economy at the National Economic and Social Advisory Council recently, situations around the world are changing rapidly, but it can safely be claimed that one economic system reigns. It is variously called liberal economy, consumerism, or capitalism. Under capitalism, nations focus on their economic growth, and the people strive to accumulate wealth from selling products and services or from investments. Consumption is a key factor of capitalism, because without it, economic growth is impossible. Consequently, businesses conduct fierce campaigns to stimulate consumption and boost sales, driving consumers to maximize their desires and their purchases, on which capitalism depends.

The manufacturing of products consumes natural resources, and all these products, after being consumed, create an almost equal amount of waste. Therefore, the world is bearing a very heavy burden. The earth must feed industry with raw materials for the processes of production, and in the meantime accept waste from consumption, while our garbage handling methods are still inefficient. A huge amount of one-time-use products have been created for our convenience, but only 19 percent of waste is recycled.

The situation raises the question of whether natural resources can last. The answer is No. Today the ratio of what is consumed against what is regenerated is 3:1. In other words, for every three parts of natural resources consumed, only one part can be restored. If this ratio does not change, everyone will be doomed. Fortunately, however, people have started to realize the danger, and many are campaigning for sustainability as the best way to preserve our world.

Since coming up with its first national economic and social development plan in 1961, Thailand has followed the path of capitalism. This is because Thai authorities have sought advice from developed countries in planning national development. They have adopted the planning philosophy of the West the creation of economic wealth. Thailands economy has grown but the price is the considerable destruction of the nations natural resources. The national development plans have committed Thailand to the economic bubble and burst cycle.

Studies of the Thai economy blame bursts on the fact that Thailand has tried to grow without a firm foundation. His Majesty the King has compared the building of a nation to that of a house. The first thing to do in the construction of a house is to build a good foundation. That requires calculations to find the specifications for the piles, and then the construction can start. Piles built for a two-story house are capable of bearing a house of up to two stories. National development is similar. But Thailand has tried to grow without looking at its own foundations. It is based on agriculture but has tried to become an industrialized nation, which requires three key factors. The first one is money. Thailand has not enough money, so it chooses to borrow. The second factor is technology. Thailand has little, so it must be imported. The third factor is manpower. Since many Thai people have a poor education, the nation has to hire foreigners. Thailand apparently depends on others for its own industrial development. But when investments are relocated to other nations, the national economy may falter or crash.

His Majesty the King, who developed the philosophy of Sufficiency Economy, has recommended appropriate stages of development. It must begin with sufficiency for the greater population. When the sufficiency of most people is achieved, the nation can then progress to economic growth.

Sufficiency Economy is not the economy of the poor, as some have said. It does not call for extreme austerity or belt-tightening. The King has advised his subjects to get rich, but he also encourages them to share their wealth with others and wants them to be able to maintain their riches in bad times. He gives three principles and one foundation for national development. And they can be applied to benefit the management of any organization.

The first principle is that reasons, not desires, provide guidance. It is not wise to follow a tide unthinkingly. Thailand should have the courage to choose its own way of development instead of following a global tide.

The second principle is moderation. One must know ones basis and potential. This knowledge will reveal what one is and how one should grow successfully.

The third principle is immunity, because one cannot know what will happen tomorrow. When situations change rapidly, it is difficult to work out a development plan because there are many risk factors. A planner needs to have vision and must try to foresee possibilities, good and bad. With a vision for the economy, for instance, planners can consider whether biodiesel should be introduced to cushion the impacts of fuel prices. Immunity is the result of risk management.

The foundation that the King has recommended is morality. People must have morality and realize the importance of unity, because without them, members of society cannot trust one another or depend on one another.

The principles and the foundation are very good and provide a sound basis for plans when anyone, from individuals to world leaders, is contemplating a course of action, but problems continue because people have not tried to apply them or understand them.

The key to national development may lie in the oath of accession made by His Majesty the King 60 years ago. Then he vowed to reign with righteousness for the benefit of all Thai people. Thai people should bear in mind that all their attempts to prosper must also serve the happiness of the public in general.

Story: W. Assawin
Photos: Chai Pattana Foundation

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