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Tribute to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand

With the financial crisis affecting economies across the planet, restoring stability, confidence and growth has become the priority, both wealthy and poor. Governments take to pumppriming or stimulus spending. International summits talk about ‘Green Growth’ and ‘Global Standard’ initiative to develop a code of standards and good behaviour in business dealings.    

In this respect, ASEANAFFAIRS finds it timely and appropriate to bring to you a special feature on the ‘Sufficiency Economy’ - a philosophy which underpins an economic development that is more resilient and sustainable.

It is a concept, which in practice, has everything to do with the inevitability of facing the globalised world in which economic efficiency and competition are the rules of the game and the need for economic security and the capacity to protect oneself from external shock and instability.

Introduced years ago to his subjects by His Majesty the King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, the longest reigning monarch in the world, this concept, which is still relatively new to those outside the Kingdom, may well be of interest to private individuals and policy-makers alike regardless of where they are. For it concerns the basic capacity of the people of a country to look after themselves, said Medhi Krongkaew, Professor of Economics at the School of Development Economics, National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA).

A tribute to HM the King, a series of articles on the King’s economic philosophy and his development initiatives, complimented by perspective interviews will appear in the special feature column.


It was in one of his customary birthday speeches years back that His Majesty wished everyone in Thailand “sufficient to live and to eat” (Phor You Phor Kin).

“The development of a country must be by steps. It must start with basic sufficiency in food and adequate living, using techniques and instruments which are economical but technically sound. When this foundation is secured, then higher economic status and progress can be established.” (“The King’s Sufficiency Economy and Its Interpretation by Economists,” prepared by Apichai Puntasen for the 1999 Year-End Conference of the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), Pattaya, 18-19 December 1999.)

This is probably the precursor of what would later become known as the theory of sufficiency economy. In practice, throughout his reign of more than six decades, the king has been demonstrating what is meant by the sufficiency concept through royal initiatives.

Most records count almost three thousand development projects have been undertaken on royal initiatives. The principles and concepts that lie behind these projects have since then been widely scrutinised and discussed in Thailand and beyond.

“Sufficiency Economy” is a philosophy bestowed by His Majesty the King on his subjects through royal remarks on many occasions over the past three decades. The philosophy provides guidance on appropriate conduct covering numerous aspects of life. After the economic crisis in 1997, His Majesty reiterated and expanded on the “Sufficiency Economy” in remarks made in December 1997 and 1998.

It is generally accepted as a philosophy which emphasises the middle path as an overriding principle for appropriate conduct by the populace and points the way for development that will lead to a more resilient and sustainable economy, better able to meet the challenges arising from globalisation and other changes.

One interpretation says: “Sufficiency” means moderation, reasonableness and the need for sufficient protection from impacts arising from changes. A sufficiency economy requires strengthening the moral fibre of the nation, so that everyone, particularly public officials, academics and businessmen at all levels, adheres first and foremost to the principles of honesty and integrity.

In addition, a way of life based on patience, perseverance, diligence, wisdom and prudence is indispensable. To achieve a sufficiency economy, an application of knowledge with due consideration and prudence is essential. In particular, great care is needed in the utilisation of methodologies for planning and implementation.

“Sufficiency Economy” does not reject either economic theory or economic progress. Neither does it denounce globalisation, as some have tried to interpret. Instead, the middle path the king’s philosophy speaks to a lifestyle governed by moderation and resilience.

It is possible to see the Sufficiency Economy as consisting of two frameworks. One is the inevitability of facing the globalised world in which economic efficiency and competition are the rules of the game; the other is the need for economic security and the capacity to protect oneself from external shock and instability … it concerns the basic capacity of the people of a country to look after themselves, noted Medhi Krongkaew, Professor of Economics at the School of Development Economics, National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA)

While the theory sounds rather abstract, His Majesty seems to have drawn interest and inspiration from keen watchers of his projects, for example, by giving uncommon but high-recognisable names to his projects.

Take for instance: ‘Kem Ling’ meaning ‘Monkey Cheeks’ is a name for a flood management system while ‘Klaeng Din’, literally meaning ‘Playing a trick on the soil’ is used for the soil treatment project in the southern province of Narathiwat.

His Majesty’s wisdom has earned not only respect and admiration within Thailand, but also throughout the international community, where the philosophy of Sufficiency Economy has been recognised as an effective approach towards sustainable development.


 

Material related to HM the King of Thailand must not be used without the Royal Approval.

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