Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Self-sufficiency or sustainable development

The concept of what's being called "self-sufficient economy" in Thailand has been getting quite a bit of attention since the Thai coup leaders have declared that would be their economic policy. For people unfamiliar with Thailand's development, it might be a bit of a surprise and maybe difficult to understand. However, it's a concept that's been widely talked about and implemented as far back as in the late 70s-early 80s, even predating the Brundtland Report's definition of "sustainable development":
«Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.»
Thailand's economic development has been guided by several 5 year period development plans of which there have been nine, summaries of the nine plans (1961-2006) provided here.

The first Western economist who had some understanding of how such a concept of development may work was E.F. Schumacher, and he wrote a famous book "Small is Beautiful: A study of economics as if people mattered". His concept has gained some ground in the world of conflicting economics and has been called Schumacher's Buddhist Economics.

However, don't mistake that for what the Thais are thinking about. Ven. P. A. Payutto's Buddhist Economics may be closer.

Among the economist in Thailand (at least my generation), the name "Father of Economics" in Thailand was given to Puey Ungpakorn, his simple piece "The quality of Life from Womb to Tomb" is a well quoted piece. He was among the key group of people thinking about the future of Thailand in the 30s. Puey was interested in development economics, however, economics taught in Thai universities had a very Keynesian tilt.

Theory explained, the actual implementation of such thinking was actually started in small scales through Projects Undertaken Through the Initiative of HM King Bhumibhol

Seventy years afterwards, this thinking crystalized and rises to the surface. It is printed in Chaipattana Foundation Journal HM's concept of self-sufficient economy:

His Majesty graciously granted his advice on self-sufficient economy in order for the people to lead their lives productively, peacefully and happily, with dharma to help steer the course and heart as an essential driving element. By Maintaining a Balance in the Five Following Aspects Describes the Principle of Being Self-reliant:

A balance in the state of mind: one needs to be strong, self-reliant, compassionate and flexible. Besides, one should possess a good conscience and place public interests on a higher priority, above one's own.

A balance in social affairs: people need to help each other, strengthen the community, maintain unity, and develop a learning process that stems from a stable and strong foundation.

A balance in managing natural resources and the environment: the country's resources need to be used efficiently and carefully, in order to create sustainable benefits and to develop the nation's stability progressively.

A balance in technology: technology should be used appropriately while encouraging new developments to come from the villagers' local wisdom.

A balance in economic affairs: one needs to increase earnings, to reduce expenses, and to pursue a decent life.
He proposed pratical method for farmers, the 30:30:30:10 ratio of land use which work under the three following phases.

Phase 1: To live at a self-sufficient level which allows farmers to become self-reliant and maintain their living on a frugal basis.
Phase 2: To cooperate as a group in order to handle the production, marketing, management, and educational welfare, as well as social development.
Phase 3: To build up connections within various occupation groups and to expand businesses through cooperation with the private sector, NGOs and the government, in order to assist the farmers in the areas of investment, marketing, production, management and information management.
To Live in Accordance with the Principles of Self-sufficient Economy

1. One must adhere to a frugal style of living and try to cut down daily expenses especially for extravagant items as stated in the Royal speech, ". . .One should not live luxuriously and must cut down expenses in an appropriate manner. . ."

2. One must be true to oneself and work righteously as well as honestly, even under harsh living conditions according to the Royal speech, ". . .Success of all people comes from good conduct and proper work. . ."

3. One must stop selfish competition and the habit of taking advantage of others when doing business as commonly happened in the past. This is defined in the following excerpt from the Royal speech, ". . .The meaning of genuine happiness is the happiness derived from one's fair conduct, both of intention and action, and not from coincidence or taking advantage of others. . ."

4. One must not give up in finding ways to pull oneself out of hardship, by striving to learn more and more in order to earn sufficient income, as stated in the Royal speech, ". . .The reason for encouraging people to learn more and become stable in their life is for their own lasting happiness from, first, leading a sufficient lifestyle, and then from being proud of themselves for being able to stand on their own. . ."

5. One must behave with good morality and refrain from all greeds. Thai society collapsed with this adverse economic situation because a lot of people betrayed their own country without any shame. His Majesty the King graciously delivered a Royal speech that conveys a similar message, as follows: ". . .Avoid committing wrongdoings that will destroy oneself or others, eliminate one's inner greed, remain true to oneself, as well as preserve and enhance the good virtues within oneself. . ."

Chaipattana ends the article with, "His Majesty accentuated that the most important word is "sufficient". If we are satisfied with living at a sufficient level which is reasonable for our status, we will then learn the true meaning of happiness."


KorBua said...

I did a presentation on the sufficiency economy once. Very interesting. I'm pretty sure that many Thai major economists are working on molding this into a theory and a model. :) Last I've heard at least. :)

SunShinySay said...

Well, I like ur writing, well-organised...It's quite interesting for me and I'm thinking to start my dissertation with this topic...still no ideas how I can generate more details...thanks for inspiring...n Happy New Year :)