Application of Sufficiency Economy to National Economic Development and Poverty Eradication
Economic Development Thoughts
The subject of economic development can be traced back to Adam Smith (1723-1790) explaining the wealth of nation can be gained through division of labor, resulting in specialization and increase in productivity. Under perfect competition, everyone will receive additional commodities and service, according to each individual’s productivity. However, the subject of economic development that has been adopted for national development of most countries has its origin from the 1950’s, especially for the countries known as developing countries as part of the Cold War strategy introduced by the United States of America as a leading country advocated for capitalism against communism led by then the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union at that time explained that capitalism could only achieve through exploitation of surplus labor for additional capital accumulation. Such practice would result in wider socio-economic gap. The real solution was only through complete elimination of capitalism. As a result, the United State of America, leader of the free enterprise world, had increasing need to gain more support especially from the under developed or developing countries. These countries were at risk from accepting the explanation for the cause of underdevelopment by communism. They must be convinced their countries’ development through the capitalist road would be a better way to solve their national problem of poverty.
The said background together with rapid revival of most European economics after severe destruction by the World War II, through significant amount of capital supplied by the U.S. to those countries, there was a strong believe at that time that the same theory can be applied to under developed or developing countries as well. The theory advanced then was the cause for poverty in those countries was due to insufficient amount of national savings, resulting in inadequate capital needed for sufficient level of investment. If the countries were supplied with adequate amount of fund and needed production technology, the countries could as well be developed to higher level with higher rate of growth. Although in the beginning, most development fruits would concentrate in the hands of national elites, owners of big business enterprises and foreign investors, in the end it would trickle down to everyone. All would eventually gain from such method of development.
was one among many other countries that adopted such development approach officially since 1961. Before that country had a clear policy to encourage foreign investment. After 13 years of such development direction, which was around the middle of the Third National Economic and Social Development Plan (1972-1976), King Bhumibol with his Queen, who had made regular visits to his people in many remote areas observed some undesirable consequences. There had been very rapid economic progress caused by quick improvement of both economic and social infrastructure. Especially, the capital city of Bangkok made very rapid material progress with increasing modernization in technology. At the same time, the socio-economic gap increased significantly almost everywhere. Although some groups of people in the rural area also did well economically, the gap among themselves was actually increased. The theory that promised that eventually everyone would be better off was not materialized.
What actually happened then was every time a high way reached any area, high government officials and capitalists from cities would already own the properties in the prime area. The poor were left with two options, either to enclose into a virgin forest land or to migrate to a city in order to join the rank of wage earners with very low pay. The rural family as a unit was threatened. Forest resources became clearly deteriorate resulting further deterioration of soil and water quality.
Such situation led to the introduction of Sufficiency Economy in 1974 as a counter discourse against the development along capitalism road without due consideration to other undesirable consequences. Such discourse was in the form of the King’s speech given to the graduates of Kasetsart University on July 18, discussed earlier that the national development must be done in step. It must allow all to be sufficiency first. This speech implied that the King disagreed with the growth led development. Therefore, Sufficiency Economy was originated as the discourse against the mainstream development from the outset.
Additionally, the King gave his speech to the audiences on the occasion of his birthday at Dusidalai Hall, Chitralada Palace, on Wednesday 4 December, 1974. One part of his speech was as follow:
“We should not pay attention to others’ criticism that Thailand is backward or Thailand is not up to date or Thailand is not modernized. We should have enough to live on and to live for. We should all wish that Thailand has enough to live on and to live for peace. We do not need maximum progress but enough to live on and to live for with peace, in comparison with other countries. If we can maintain the level of enough to live on and to live for, we can already be in the top form.”
Actual Development and Sufficiency Economy
Unfortunately, the development direction suggested by the King did not receive adequate attention from the government. At the same time, it might not suit the interest of foreign investors. The fact that his speech had not been integrated into the mainstream development resulted in twice economic crises in Thailand. The first one was during 1980-1985 resulted from the second oil price shock, by OPEC and the internal conflict that almost resulted in a civil war prior to and during that period. The second crisis began from 1997 to 2002 discussed before. Since his two speeches in 1974, the King continued to practice and experiment his concept of Sufficiency Economy in various royal projects, his own personal projects and the projects claimed to be undertaken from his initiation that he was able to supervise them very closely. A point to ponder theoretically is, if the Thai government applied his thought as part of national development effort, whether the Thai economy will be developed to the point concluded by the National Economic and Social Development Board at the end of the 7th Plan that Thailand had a “sound economic performance but with severe social problems leading to unsustainable development.”
It can be clearly seen that the national development that is in line with Sufficiency Economy must be done step by step. The example shown clearly in the first paper on part of the New Theory, that can be subdivided into three steps. The first step focuses on self-reliance. It does not mean that one has to acquire everything needed. However a part of such action must be achieved. At one stage, the King estimated that one fourth of the activities would be sufficient for self-reliance. However, relying on external market completely which he called “trade economy” was not a viable option either. The two economic crises provide the most valuable lessons. The first one during 1980-1985, was the case that Thailand depended mostly on exports of agricultural products. As oil price in the world market increased very rapidly, while the price and quantity of agricultural exports did not increase in step, resulted in the said crisis. The second crisis (1997-2002) resulted from too much dependence on export of manufacturing goods. Soon as the domestic cost of production increased very rapidly as the result of bubble economy, exports resulted problems were clearly visible since 1996.
The King did not discourage trade economy completely. However, he emphasized that majority of activities fro exchange should be done at a district level. Within a district, the energy used for transportation would not be too much. After that, the second step of the New Theory, should be adopted in order to be strong enough as to be able to stand on our feet. The country should be able to produce most things for domestic consumption. After then, if we want to compete with the rest in the world markets, we will have no problems. For even if we are not able to sell our products at the level anticipated, we will still have enough to live on, and live for. At the same time, Sufficiency Economy does not limit to small scale of investment only. A large scale investment, for example, an investment in Pasak Jalasidhi Dam is also part of Sufficiency Economy. The consideration must be justified more from social costs and benefits. He pointed out that before the Dam was erected, many Northern provinces of Bangkok included Bangkok itself was suffered heavily from flood, annually. The cost was amount to several billion baht each year. After the dam was completed, the area below the dam has been under better system irrigation, the yield from rice production has been increased significantly. At the same time, there has been no flood problem in Bangkok permanently. The social benefits, therefore, would be much higher than the social cost. Thus, it can be concluded that even for large scale investment together with technology domestically provided with high social benefit, it can be considered as advanced level of Sufficiency Economy.
It can be concluded at this point that Sufficiency Economy stressed on step by step development together with investment that will take into consideration social return, with the application of the middle way and having thorough knowledge with moral and ethical consideration as a pre-requisite. It can be seen clearly that if the Thai government has ever adopted the development direction in line with Sufficiency Economy and applied the concept at least in the rural area, in order to ensure economic security there, it can be envisaged that the guerilla warfare led by the Communist Party of Thailand that was increased in its intensity since the massacre of students and innocent people on Oct 6, 1976, could possibly be defused. The guerilla war had increased its intensity from 1976 to 1980, causing great damage to Thailand. Such violent loss, in part, was result from socio-economic gap especially between cities and rural areas. Had the gap been lessen through the application of Sufficiency Economy since 1974, the damage would not be that great. This fact can be testified by the policy of the Prime Minister led by General Prem Tinsulanonda that welcomed all parties to take part in subsequently national development efforts.
It can also be seen that even though the economic crisis during 1980-1985 was unavoidable, the only problem that could be actually avoided then was unfair distribution of income caused by uneven development approach. If so, the damage would have been much less. However, the economic crisis in 1997-2002 was the one that could clearly be avoided completely. The King himself began his first warning since 1994 and gave the direct warning since 1994 and gave the direct warning in 1996, asking people to contain greed. Unfortunately, it was too late. From the discussion in the first paper to this one, it is without any question that the enemy of Sufficiency Economy is human greed. It is part of undeveloped and less developed human mind. Such human greed has been perpetually stimulated through the logic of capitalism, industrialism, and consumerism.
Given the said nature of human greed the fight between the two approach of economic development with continue in the future, the chance for Sufficiency Economy to gain upper hand or to be the mainstream approach in Thailand or be able to receive its status in significance equal to that of capitalism, depends on whether the experience from the two recent economic crises can eventually be absorbed in the mind of most people. It also depends on whether there is any effective means to upright the development of mind, for the majority of Thai people. The fact that our beloved King Bhumibol has accessed to the throne for 60 years, as the longest reigned monarch, could also help the Thais to understand and realize the significance of his teaching on Sufficiency Economy. The populist politics in Thailand, with its popularity at peak during the last 5 years, stresses on money as the only tool to solve all problems to the point that many people have been addicted to it. Presently, increasing number of people began to have their eye opened from the damage that the policies of this nature have created. Together with many undesirable consequences from capitalism it has generated together with the many undesirable consequences from capitalism, industrialism, and consumerism, it appears that Sufficiency Economy will have a much better chance for our future national development than when the King first introduced this concept in 1974. The long lost time of 32 years has been the long fight for the development of thought, paňňa and mental development, a very long struggle indeed..
The Causes of Poverty and Possible Solutions
It has been generally argued by the mainstream economists that as Sufficiency Economy mainly focuses sufficiency while capitalism emphasizes on economic growth and more income, it will be rather doubtful that Sufficiency Economy can even solve the problem of poverty. Such question should be counted by raising similar question that if capitalism claims to be able to solve this problem why it still cannot do so, given the fact that Thailand has developed along this line for 45 years already. In term of money and income, there has been significant increase in income since 1961. This increase may mean to many that there is actually a real decrease in poverty. However, social problems which are the reflection of poverty in another angle are on the increasing trends. The said situation is not only confined to Thailand, it takes place almost everywhere in the world, including countries strictly developed along capitalism. The United Stated of America, the fore-runner of the development under this track also faces similar problems, even though it has more politico-economic power as well as military might, before discussing the causes of poverty than Thailand.
One should begin by seeking common understanding of the concept. Otherwise one can end up discussing different things the same way as understanding the concept of happiness in Buddha Dharma that has entirely different meaning from pleasure understood in the West. Happiness in Buddha Dharma is the condition where pain is decreasing, while pleasure is the condition where craving is stimulated. Such example explains why “poverty” should be commonly understood first.
In general poverty means a condition full of hardship being deprived from basic human needs (food, clothes, medicine, and shelter) living with great difficulties. Because of this fact, poverty is the thing that each one tries to avoid. It is in fact a very painful situation for living. We all should agree in common that wherever severe poverty appears, it should be quickly eradicated, so that human being can live with less pain. Accompanied problem to this position is that in order to eradicate poverty effectively, we must clearly understand it causes. Most economists generally explain that the main cause of poverty is insufficient income. In order to solve that problem, we must find the way to raise income for those people. The problem of poverty will then be easily solved. Unfortunately, the problem does not end there. There is additional question of what would be the reasons that people have insufficient income, and how to solve the problems. The logical answer to this question is that those with low income are because they have low level of productivity. In order to increase income, productivity must be raised as well. The cause of low level of productivity is mainly due to low level of education. To increase productivity, general level of education must also be raised. Such explanation tends to gain acceptance most easily. Unfortunately, to actually solve the problem is more difficult. In the first place, there are various forms of education and each form has its associated costs. Moreover, there have not been any clear proof of what form of education will actually solve the problem of poverty., most effectively.
There are in fact additional explanations by mainstream economists that there are more than one form of poverty. The first one is absolute poverty associated with insufficient of basic necessities needed to sustain living. The second one is most people who claimed themselves to be poor normally have their basic necessities. However, there is also a big income gap between the rich and the poor. The so-called “poor” must strife for more income and wealth in order to catch up with the rich. The real problem is caused by the fact that the rich do not cease to earn even more income and wealth. Income and wealth can actually change into more power, and more power can bring in more money. Those who have more will search for even much more, resulting in an endless catching up process. In this process, the ones who are behind will further be left farter behind. The real losers in this process are resources and environment. They can not protect themselves from being encroached by human beings, who try to convert resources and environment into money or income. Such explanation actually links poverty problem to environment problem. The most frequent problem of poverty is a relative one. Any attempt at solving this problem will lead to destruction of environment at rapid pace.
There are many other ways to explain the concept of poverty. They are deprivation, inaccessibility of necessary goods and services, even with sufficient amount of income or wealth but because of sex, race, or distance from goods or services, or because of tradition and culture or because of legal status such as those who live in the areas specified as conserved forests or illegal immigrants act.
At the same time, those who live in the rural areas may appear to outsider as they live that those who live with struggles are not necessarily poor, so long as they secure their resource bases. They may live frugal lives, but are absolutely not poor. This situation is very much interesting and it will not confine only to rural areas. Poor people in cities should have similar answer, even though it may not be the same. The resource base of those dwelling in cities, are ownership of factors of production with good quality. If they have such factors of production under full control of a person, that person is not poor.
The said characteristics imply to two meaningful words, security and resource base or factors of production with good quality. Security in life comes from security in resource base for sustainability or ownership of good quality of factors of production, under such condition, there is no need to struggle for more materials and services more than necessary, at any specific time. At the same time, such a person will not feel poor, and there is no need to accumulate wealth excessively. Without such need, excessive destruction of resources and environment will not be necessary..
Those who secure their resources bases may live a frugal life, because they do not have concern for their own future. They do not have to hurriedly accumulate their wealth resulting in rapid destruction of their resources, since there is no need to intervene into the nature more than needed. For an outsider who must rely on his or her own wealth may have pity on such persons. However, those people never feel that they are poor because their lives are fully secure. In this case, it must be clearly understood that those who live frugally are not necessary poor. Using income as a measuring tool for poverty can be misleading.
Poverty in the real sense implies insecurity in all aspect of life, for example, insecurity in resource base, insecurity from having no possession of good quality factors of production, including mental insecurity. In the last case, if poverty is defined this way, those who are wealthy with high income but without mental security can also be poor. As poverty results from insecurity, it has the meaning closer to the word “dhukha” or pain or suffering in English, in a much wider sense that includes mental insecurity. The causes for insecurity in resource base, insecurity from having no possession quality factors of production, and metal insecurity can vary from case to case. Partly in can be explained by in accessibility to the opportunity for self-development. The other part can be due to being deprived by the law, or by the existing socio-economic structure. In brief, the problem of poverty results from the interaction between the level of paňňa in a broader sense, and the existing structure that dominate such a person. Those who have the higher or highest level of paňňa in a broader sense, and the existing structure that dominates such a person. Those who have the higher or highest level of paňňa, given the very strong structure that works against their interest can still overcome such difficulties. However, if the structure is so strong such as the cast system in India, even with very high level of paňňa , it is still very difficult to overcome, such rigid social structure. For example, the ones in the lowest cast or the untouchable; it will be most difficult for them to move up to higher economic class. On the other hand, the one with less or inferior paňňa even with a supportive structure that person may still not be able to help one’s self.
As the relationship between personal ability and the structure works in a dynamic way, it is very difficult to draw a general conclusion on where the problem of poverty for a person lies. Thus, the solution must be made on each specific case. In order to generalize the solution, we must assume the case that a person does not have in his or her possession the good quality factors of production, and a person must only have moderate level of paňňa or intelligence, given the fact that the structure is not so suppressive. Under the said conditions, some generalization can be made.
Poverty and Mainstream Economics
Economics is generally understood as a subject explaining production with strong emphasis on efficiency that will result in increased income, both upon individual and national income in aggregation. As poverty is explained as the problem of those who have low income resulting from low productivity, it is generally understood that economics can serve as the most effective tool to fight poverty, more than any other disciplines. Unfortunately, the real expensive does not confirm such belief, especially all countries developed along the line of capitalism, even with the country that attains the highest level of development, such as that of the United States, the problem still can never be successfully tackled. Such poor performance is due to the fact that capitalism stimulate greed continuously all the time.
Poverty problem existed in most countries in the world is not absolute poverty, but relative poverty. Absolute poverty can be easily solved by increasing productivity and consequently increasing income. Relative poverty causes by politico- and socio economic gap between those who have, and those who have less. Any a development process with greed at its center, the have will normally design the structure that will maintain their existing advantage. The have less will be at the disadvantage.. At the same time, the have less will normally imagine that their lives will be improved, if they have more. This situation results in the phenomenon of catching up, explained earlier. The difference in power between the two results in increasing gap in the process of catching up. Under this condition, relative poverty still exists. Under this catching-up process, resources and environment have been used up at much more rapid rate. The real losers, in this case are finally resources and environment, the problem that the whole world is facing at the moment. In this process, apart from its inability to solve relative poverty, it can produce more absolute poverty. In developed countries in Europe and North America, there are a lot of homeless, alcoholic, drug addicted persons. These people are incapable of helping themselves. They are the absolute poor. They can be found from any major cities in the world, with the tendency to increase continuously.
The fact that capitalism cannot effectively solve this problem of poverty in reality is because its core value is competition and greed. It is impossible that competition and selfishness can actually serve as effective tool to fight poverty. If we want to use western framework for this purpose, the more effective tool is economic justice. However, if we switch to Sufficiency Economy, its core value will be compassion and cooperation, instead of greed and competition. The core value of competition in capitalism has been taken from Charles Darwin’s (1809-1882) law of survival of the fittest. Such form of competition can never eliminate the poor completely. The system will keep producing more of the poor at least the ones in the category of relative poverty. Those defeated from competition will eventually become the poor. If the social safety net designed for such system is not strong enough, there are good chances for many to fall through. If the net is so strong there will be increasing numbers who try to depend on the net to the point that the net can no longer support such rapid creasing weight. It can be seen clearly that with the core value of competition and greed or self-interest, there is no way that the problem of poverty could be solved, because there is inconsistency within the said system.
Sufficiency Economy as a Solution to Poverty
From what have been discussed earlier, if Thailand embarked on Sufficiency Economy instead of continuing on capitalist road since the introduction of Sufficiency Economy 1974, by adopting the development in step with the aim that everyone should have sufficiency to live, there will be no or at least less socio-economic gap than what it has been currently. As the fruits of economic development would have been distributed more evenly, economic expansion will result from increased productivity, due to the fact that the majority of the population has enough to live on and to live for. This type of development will not create political socio-economic gap. If the gap still exists, it would not be as large what it has been currently. The main reason is that the core value of Sufficiency Economy is honesty, not taking advantage of one self as well as the others, focusing more on cooperation instead of competition.
Apart from what discussed above, Sufficiency Economy does not suggest any redistribution scheme through formal social safety net by the government. Such system is based on collection of progressive tax from the rich in order to pay to the less fortunate ones. Sufficiency Economy designs a redistributive mechanism through securing resource base for communities in rural areas. It also focuses on improving the quality of factors of production for the owners. Most of them are urban workers, who require better skills. Such process of improvement can be managed, through a group process. Through the said approach, the there will be no need for the poor to depend on welfare mechanism managed by the state, the practice that may induce many problems, if it has not been properly managed.
In his attempt to solve the problem of poverty, in the rural areas in which the target group was small land holders, the King applied his New Theory discussed earlier. It can be clearly seen that the New Theory is a practical form for the solution of poverty problem for small land holders in the rural areas. Significant by-products gained from such practice of self-reliance will be rapid generation of “new knowledge” among those farmers. “Knowledge” and ‘sandhosa” (or sufficiency) are necessary conditions for the New Theory of the first step. Both knowledge and sufficiency also played the most important role in generating higher level of “paňňa”, the most important factor in solving the problem of poverty. As already discussed earlier, the interaction between “paňňa” and sio-economic structure in a dynamic way, can explain the problem of poverty of a person at varying degrees. The ability to improve paňňa significantly will reduce in its significance of the structural problem that can normally be one major obstacle against any effort to reduce poverty.
For the community of an urban poor the King did not have a clear example since most of his work were in the rural areas. However, the emphasis on working as a group in the form of a cooperative has been suggested for the New Theory step two. He also has demonstrated clear examples how the urban poor can work together in a setting of small scale enterprises in his personal project within the compound of his Chitralada Palace. Under this project, he has demonstrated how appropriate technology can be effectively used. Their costs are not too high beyond the reach of the urban poor collectively if they can work together step by step. The King puts stronger emphasis on solving problems of small farmers in the rural areas, since it can be a very effective measure against immigration to big cities. Without the continuous flow of immigration, problem of poverty in urban areas will also be reduced eventually. Therefore, the development of consciousness or mindfulness or “sati” and “paňňa” of the poor in rural areas, are both necessary and sufficient conditions. They are more difficult than creating a sufficient social safety net, normally organized by the government. However, it is the most direct way to solve the problem of poverty at a national level.
The focus on the development of paňňa and cooperation as its core value of Sufficiency Economy, the problem of poverty can eventually be eradicated. The process of securing in “resource base” as well as raising awareness of the problem of deterioration of resources and environment, the end result will be more intelligent use of resources. More renewable resources will be used. Attempt at rehabitation of overused resources and environment will also be improved. All these activities will be done under the more articulation of social costs and benefits within the framework of Sufficiency Economy.
By-products from Solving the Poverty Problem through Sufficiency Economy
One specific problem for Thailand as well as that of other countries having similar development experience is how to generate a well, balance forces for democratic pluralism. Countries that have made considerable progress in this direction are the ones in northern Europe. The meaning of democratic pluralism is the check and balance among three major forces with the society; the state, business sector or market mechanism, and a civil society. Good balance of these three forces must begin from the civil society that can gain significant control the state, in order for the state to regulate market mechanism to operate fairy for everyone. At the same time proper operation of market mechanism will help regulate behavior of an individual member of the civil society to carry out economic activities for mutual benefits.
The existing problem in Thailand in the past up to December 14, 1973, Thailand was ruled under the military autocracy. Democracy was referred only to justify their rules. Under such form of politics, the political leaders had the power over business. In other word, the state controlled the market. The market itself was more in the form of monopolistic market. Such form of market in turn controlled the civil society. The civil society was so weak that it could not challenge the state power. Such relationship continued until 1973.
The significant change on October 14, 1973 resulted in the change in balance of power. The business sector became more powerful and was able to control the state to certain extent. At the same time, civil society also grew in its strength and could partially influence the state as shown in the relationship below.
Since then the business sector has grown in its strength to the point that it can be called business politics, and finally it has been developed into money politics. It is the form of politics such that both business and money play the most dominant roles. The populist policy has been advocated by the state. Both the state and the market are in very close relationship. At the same time, civil society has been further weakened.
Sufficiency Economy used to solve the poverty problem will serve as a very much useful tool to reduce popular dependency of the poor on the state in the form of populist policies. The emphasis on self-reliance and mental development implies an improvement of moral and ethic among people. The strength of the civil society will be revived to the point that it can actually control the state and disconnect or reduce the strength of its business sector’s ability to control the state.
If Sufficiency Economy can actually improve political development from the existing one, it can be anticipated that the ideal democratic pluralism will eventually take place in Thailand. Such situation will help reinforce the overall development direction more towards Sufficiency Economy. Although the final goal of Sufficiency Economy is peace and tranquility for most people, the process that will lead to the said goal also result in equality gained from not much difference in socio-economic status among the people, brotherhood resulting from mutual help designed intrinsically in the development process of Sufficiency Economy. Freedom in Sufficiency Economy has more in-depth meaning than the concept of freedom originated in the West. Freedom in Sufficiency Economy implies the life that has been controlled the least, by cravings. Therefore, the goal of democratic pluralism is most consistent to the process designed for achieving Sufficiency Economy with its ultimate goal of peace and tranquility. Although democratic pluralism focuses on freedom, as the most important tool to start the chain reaction, unfortunately freedom that has been controlled by cravings cannot serve as a reliable foundation to achieve the final goal in life of inner peace and tranquility.
Possible Transformation to Sufficiency Economy
The difficulties in applying Sufficiency Economy to solve the problem of poverty lie on the ability to achieve metal development for most people, the ability to improve their level of consciousness or sati and paňňa of those who are still in pain. The fact that they are still having the problem is because they do not have sufficient sati and paňňa enough to solve the problem on their own. The biased structure forces many more people to depend on simple hand out provided by the state. In stead of using state mechanism and its resources to help facilitate people’s empowerment for self-reliance, forcing people to rely more on state’s hand out, has made the situation become much more difficult to mobilize Sufficiency Economy as the tool to fight poverty.
Amidst the said difficulties, there is some light at the end of a tunnel. Although the King had made his first statement of Sufficiency Economy since 1974, and had echoed by increased the frequency of his warning since 1994, not much response was received by various sectors. There has been no concrete government policy on this matter at all. Only in 1997, the speech appeared to gain some momentum. In this speech, he pointed to the cause of too much reliance on trade economy of the country. Better response came from the civil society and some response from certain section of business sector.
The reason was that the civil society sector was the one who received full impact from the two economic crises. Since Thailand began to take a capitalist road in 1961, many individuals tried to struggle for their own survival through self-reliance, because they could not actually rely on anyone, in the past. Although those attempts were called differently by different groups such as community economy, forest agriculture, integrated farming, organic farming, community business or community enterprise, all actually operated within the framework of Sufficiency Economy. Also included were royal projects, The King’s personal projects and the projects under his direct supervision. At the time of his loud and clear explanation of sufficiency economy in 1997, many examples were already available. All those who adopt Sufficiency Economy as examples usually received direct benefit in the form security in life and peaceful living. These examples are the real proof of success in switching from their usual practices to that of Sufficiency Economy.
Similarly in business sector, economics crisis in 1997 resulted in severe damage to many of medium and big enterprises. However, numbers of small and medium enterprises well survived the 1997 economic crisis. Part of the reason for survival was self-immunization and moderation. Those businesses in fact, did not realize that their survival was caused by their practices in accordance with the principles of Sufficiency Economy. During the crisis, these businesses also included additional principle of reasonableness within the framework of Sufficiency Economy. They upheld the principles of honesty, did not take the advantage from the others, because they viewed that the situation was a matter of life and death for all involved. Therefore they must be reasonably according to the principle of Sufficiency Economy. These businesses have, in turn, turned to be good examples for others to follow. The sector that actually moves very slowly and unsystematically is the government. Apart of its own clumsiness, it also implements the policies that become major obstacles to mobilization of Sufficiency Economy.
With clear framework and sufficient evidences to prove the usefulness of Sufficiency Economy, if the Thai state does not focus too much on self-interest of the leaders and group interest of those who support the leaders. Sufficiency Economy should be on its move currently. The fact that the civil society and part of the business sector followed the principle of Sufficiency Economy without any support from the government has reflected the necessity and the strength of the two sectors on their own. That strength, if not being destroyed by the populist policy in the process, it can be anticipated for a gradual and permanent change in the direction of Sufficiency Economy eventually. The clear advantage of Sufficiency Economy is that those who successfully apply the concept will eventually achieve personal security with peace and tranquility. The outcome is evident and clearly visible for others to follow. As sufficiency economy does not encourage competition but compassion with caring and sharing, mental security and peace and tranquility will be a definite outcome for those who adhere to the principle continuously after certain period of time. Such empirical evidence will serve as incentive to the rest to start embarking on living their lives, or undertaking their own businesses along the path of Sufficiency Economy.
In conclusion, although it may appear initially to be very difficult in mobilizing efforts for the development along the line of Sufficiency Economy, because the process will involve the improvement in level of sati and paňňa of the majority of people, the task appears to be most difficult as well as very much challenging. In reality such task is not that difficult. Many clear examples are already existed. The successes will be rewarded with personal security, peace, and tranquility in return. Bitter experience from the previous economic crises will serve as stimulating forces. The only problem awaited to be resolved is support and cooperation from the government, in terms of policies and resources for further the development of the country in the said direction with true understanding and sincerity.
It can be seen clearly that the past development effort along the route of capitalism, industrialism, and consumerism, although resulted in rapid economic progress, especially material progress, it has been accompanied by severe social problems resulting in unsustainable development. Most importantly, this direction of development can never be able to solve the problem of poverty effectively. The said result is due to the core value of capitalism that focuses on competition and greed which is inconsistent with effective eradication of poverty. Poverty normally results from insecurity in resource base or ownership of inferior quality of factors of production. The main cause for poverty results from dynamic interaction between low level of paňňa, and the socio-economic structure that is not conducive for alleviate poverty. The ultimate outcome from development efforts, not only the poor that are in pain or suffering, the wealthy and the powerful and with a lot of materials under their possession but without paňňa are also suffering. The whole process will lead to self-destruction for humankind eventually.
The core value of Sufficiency Economy is opposite to that of capitalism. It focuses on compassion, cooperation, as well as caring and sharing. The development along the route of Sufficiency Economy focuses on equity implying that the development efforts must be done, step by step, aiming at reducing political-economic gap from the outset. Such characteristics will pre-empt the existence of relative poverty. If it still occurs, it will not be as sever as the one within the capitalist framework. However, Sufficiency Economy is far beyond the concepts of equity, brotherhood, and freedom explained in the West. Especially, freedom means freedom from being controlled by cravings. The final goal of Sufficiency Economy is security in life, peace, and tranquility.
The success of development along the route of sufficiency economy does not only eradicate poverty completely, it also provides supportive environment for democratic pluralism to actually taken place in Thailand in the future. Currently, politics in Thailand has been controlled by business or money. Sufficiency economy will help the poor to be more self-reliance. They will have no need to depend on government for occasional hand out, led by populist policies using money as the only tool to solve all problems. This way civil society will be empowered and being freed from reliance or controlled by the state. If civil society become much stronger to the point that it can control the state to regulate the market to function fairly and effectively, the country will be moving along the just and equality courses. Finally, democratic pluralism and sufficiency economy will enhance each other that will finally reach the ideal goal. The problem that can be anticipated in advance in mobilizing sufficiency economy is the development of mind, or the improvement of the level of sati and paňňa of majority of people, so that they can solve their own problems, within the said framework.
It can be anticipated from the outset that such attempt will face various forms of challenges. Fortunately from factual evidence, many individuals and few businesses that receive severe impact from the last two economic crises have actually turned the crises into their own opportunities. They learned to adopt the new way of making their own living, as well as conducting their own businesses within the framework of Sufficiency Economy. Sufficiency Economy does not merely as an interesting theory or philosophy, but also with good practical experiences. Those who practices Sufficiency Economy will eventually achieve personal security, as well as peace and tranquility. They form into a set of good examples for the others to follow, by changing from their usual ways of lives to more in the way of Sufficiency Economy.
The only obstacle remained is the government sector. Apart from the leading sector of civil society and some business enterprises, more political pressure is needed in order to bring the change to the state to react in a more supportive way. If Thailand can achieve this goal, there will be more sustainable development along the route of Sufficiency Economy in the future. It is the great challenge and opportunity, at the same time.