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NEWS UPDATES 14 June 2010

Thais see social development as key

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The Thai government wants to promote social enterprises as a key tool to narrow income gaps and tackle social disparity and poverty as part of its ambitious programme for national reconciliation.

State financial support, Board of Investment privileges, technical support and other assistance such as training for social enterprises would be closely co-ordinated, said Suwannee Khammun, deputy secretary-general to the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), the state planning agency, the Bangkok Post reports.

Income disparity and poverty are always cited as a critical component of social problems in Thailand and were highlighted by the leaders of the red-shirt protesters in their recent attempt to topple the Abhisit Vejjajiva government. "The concept of social enterprises is totally different from corporate social responsibility (CSR)," said Mrs Suwannee. "Social enterprises are a business model that seeks to balance making profit with benefiting society, while CSR is just an activity and initiative of companies that set aside certain budget to promote their corporate image while owners still enjoy a big portion of the company's profits."

By definition, social enterprises are businesses or services with primarily social objectives, whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners.

According to Mrs. Suwannee, social enterprises in Thailand would be developed on the role model of the Chumphon Cabana Resort & Hotel, which allows its employees to hold shares, and uses products supplied from the community.

She said the government was committed to developing incentives for private firms, community businesses, or non-governmental organisations that want to get involved in social enterprises. The Board of Investment now offers tax privileges to small and medium enterprises or businesses that run businesses on a environmentally friendly basis. It is now working on privileges for social enterprises.

Mr. Abhisit has also directed the NESDB to seek co-operation from communities nationwide to implement the programme to tackles social disparities.

The plan includes an overhaul of the land management and amendments of laws and regulations that would enable people to obtain greater access to natural resources and social welfare


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