The Thai government has used new, flexible financial mechanisms to support urban poor housing systems and debt relief. A large number of the poor, who never previously had access to formal financial systems, have now been integrated.
In his address at the Fifth Asia-Pacific Urban Forum, held at the United Nations Conference Center in Bangkok, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva pointed out that the implementation of these mechanisms demonstrates an important and successful approach to creating new and greater space and opportunity for a large number of people who are in need and who used to be left out.
Convened by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific from 22 to 24 June 2011, the forum focuses on the theme “Cities of Opportunity.”
Prime Minister Abhisit said that more than 3,000 local authorities in Thailand now have community welfare systems which are run by community organizations, with the support of local authorities and other development actors. During the past two years, the Thai government has provided more than 100 million US dollars to support the process of people-driven, citywide upgrading and the strengthening of communities. The objective is to give the poor a role in the development of their housing and to build strong local communities all over the country. This housing project is called “Baan Mankong,” and the Government has also adapted rules and regulations to facilitate various activities under this project.
In his view, the Prime Minister believes that it is possible to offer both the rich and poor, those living in both urban and rural areas, the chance to lead decent lives. But opportunities for development and growth must be given to all. He said that people must also avoid urbanization at the expense of rural development and opening too great opportunities only for a few, while closing doors to a large number of the poor or making them poorer.
The Prime Minister also called for the form of urbanization that leads to equality and opportunity for all, a form of urbanization that also builds strong people and a strong, modern, and humane society. This means that the present trends should be reviewed, and emphasis should be extended to reach out to the sectors of society that are currently without opportunities to benefit from this growth.
He stated that new spaces need to be opened up and developed for the participation in economic systems and other city developments by a greater number of people on the ground. They need job opportunities and financial support, as well as welfare systems and secure housing. Large-scale investment activities and infrastructure programs need to have a clearer view of their social, economic, and environmental impact on people, and whether they will provide greater equality and opportunities to people, or less. This means also looking beyond urban areas, but at remote areas, so that more people are able to take part and equally benefit.