The following article was provided by the Thai National Reform Council for academic personnel to be apprised of what the present Thai government would like us to understand is its rationale and agenda. The endnotes are not from the NRC or the newspaper article.
The Model of Thailand 4.0 is security, prosperity and sustainability
Dr. Suvit Maesincee, chairperson of Thailand Visionary and Future Design Committee of National Reform Council (NRC)[i] has stated that Thailand had been through major systematic reformation only once, during the time of King Rama the 5th.[ii] Since then, Thailand has been lacking consistent major reformation till present. As a consequence, while the country has been developed to a certain point, it is now facing the middle-income trap, inequality and corruption, as well as serious conflicts within the past decade.[iii] Without “The Second Major Reformation,” Thailand may fall behind and become underdeveloped.[iv] If Thailand continues to see through this major reformation consistently, with the help from every sector, it may become one of the first world countries with security, prosperity, and sustainability.
To enable the transition to digital economic system in the 21st century, many countries have had major systematic reformation to manage new opportunities, risks and threats. Furthermore, improvements were made for economic and social infrastructure, value system and living culture, as well as education and work. This means upgrade is needed in every sector in order to become a first world country.[v]Therefore, the goal or the vision of Thailand is to become a first world country through development, by the year 2032 (or the 100th year anniversary of the revolution – editor).
Following are the 6 characteristics of a first world country within Thailand context; 1. Pride in Thai culture and nation. 2. Holistic development of Thai people. 3. Social quality. 4. Good quality environment. 5. Strong economic infrastructure. 6. Having important roles regionally and globally.[vi]
The driving force behind Thailand’s prosperity has been under constant change. From “Thailand 1.0” which emphasized enhancing the agriculture sector, to “Thailand 2.0” which emphasized light industry, followed by “Thailand 3.0” which focused on heavy industries. The transition for Thailand to the 21st century, means the transition from “Thailand 3.0” to “Thailand 4.0” in order to become the first world country. From “middle income” country to “high income” country and from “efficiency” driven economics to “innovation” driven economics.[vii]
Thailand 4.0 consists of 3 “New Growth Engines,” which are 1. “Productive Growth Engine,” 2. “Inclusive Growth Engine,” and 3. “Green Growth Engine.”[viii] Under Thailand 4.0, it is necessary to improve the national economic infrastructure; from “Comparative Advantage” to “Competitive Advantage.” This is to improve the industrial economic infrastructure from “Added Value” to “Creating Value.” There are 5 main groups, which are 1. Bio-industry. 2. Renewable energy industry. 3. Design and engineering industry. 4. Quality of life related industry. 5. Creative economic industry.[ix] These 5 industries stem from “natural” and “cultural” advantages that Thailand originally has, and that are to be improved with management, new knowledge, and technology. These 5 new industries correspond with the global transition from the emphasis on “knowledge” to the emphasis on upgrading “quality of life.”[x]
In the past, Thailand emphasized building economic prosperity as a priority and over-looked development in other areas. For this reason, Thailand 4.0 emphasizes “Balanced Development” in 4 areas, which are, economic prosperity, preserving the environment, wellness of society, and strengthening human knowledge by balanced development, based on “Sufficiency Economy Philosophy,”[xi] which is described as “fill-in where there are lacks, stop when there is enough, share when you have more than you need.” On a small scale, to know when to “fill, be content, and share” will help guarantee people with economic and social security. This creates a sharing community, encouraging and strengthening bonds between communities.
On a bigger level, to know when to “fill, be content, and share” will help Thailand handle the global dynamic, increase ability to compete, as well as strengthen the connections between every sector. To “fill, be content, and share” is the “new value system” that will equip Thailand with security, prosperity and sustainability as a first world country. It is necessary for Thailand to have all-around readiness in order to become a first world country.[xii]
But the present situation in Thailand prevents the country from achieving its goals. There are many problems yet to be solved, such as, internal conflicts, social inequality and corruption. Therefore, Thailand has 2 important missions to achieve in order to become a first world country. 1. Reform Agenda, which is to resolve the conflicts Thailand has been facing for many years in order to neutralize the country’s situation. 2. Transformation Agenda, which is to prepare and increase Thailand’s potential to become the first world country. These reform and transformation agendas have different characteristics. “Reform Agenda” concerns the infrastructure, systems, and behavioral improvement. After a study and analysis of the issues, National Reform Council (NRC) has proposed 37 reform agendas, such as, budget system, justice process, land reform, tax infrastructure, and establishing an ethics council. The “Transformation Agenda” concerns new missions to be implemented to prepare and increase the country’s ability to develop, such as, a new country driving force, support for foreign investment, a water management system, transition to digital economics, and major database management. Due to the problems Thailand is facing presently, it is necessary to emphasize the Reform Agenda as a priority, with the goal of neutralizing the country’s conflicts. After these issues have been resolved, the emphasis will shift to a Transformation Agenda to increase the country’s potential to become a first world country.[xiii]
From Thansettakij Newspaper 35th year, issue 3083, 30 August – 2 September 2015
[i] The NRC is the military government, also known as the junta, presently in power.
[ii] HM King Chulalongkorn, Rama V, modernized the Thai administration along 19th century European lines.
[iii] The author does not define the “middle income trap”, but the phrase casts a shadow over the middle class. “Inequality (“red shirt” up-country supporters of the pre-coup democratic governments vs. the “yellow shirt” Bangkok elite), corruption and conflict” are the issues the military used to justify replacing the government.
[iv] “Second … Reformation” implies that the “reform” will be as beneficial as the first one was.
[v] Thailand is to catch-up to the major economic powers without a hint of sacrificing sovereignty by joining the globalization processes those countries employ in doing international business, international power politics, and international information technology.
[vi] These are obviously abstract. It is interesting that the list is called “characteristics of a first world country … within a Thai context” and that it begins with celebration of cultural nationalism, as if there is no intention of actually joining the international scene but only to get a competitive advantage, as the author says two paragraphs later. The main concerns of 90% of the Thai population are to acquire a better quality of life through income levels that afford comfort and convenience and life-long health care.
[vii] It should be noted that every step has increased the gap between those that work as well as their dependents and those who control and manage. Each step has reduced the number of real beneficiaries, and left behind most of those who had pulled themselves up to the next step. Today there is still a great preponderance of people whose lives largely depend on agriculture, but the national emphasis has moved away from support for them. In the current era of heavy industrialization, moreover, the prime movers are international corporations with Thai bankers and government as partners, while on average a very small percent of anyone’s personal income comes from that manufacturing done by heavy industries. This article is the clearest indication we have had that industrial laborers are soon to be similarly marginalized as industries seek cheaper work forces overseas.
[viii] It would be helpful to have these “engines” described in terms that show how they will move the 5 “industries” listed below.
[ix] These five “industries” are all “white collar” types. If that is where the country is going to derive its first world status, a very large area of labor is being ignored or calculated as exploitable.
[x] This is perhaps the most fascinating suggestion made in this article. Education is to be replaced by quality of life, which can presumably be had without education. Education, incidentally, is a key contributor to democracy. A cynic might wonder if this is a tacit recognition of the overall failure and bleak prospects of the Thai educational effort at all levels as measured by O-level performance by secondary students and the disappointing ranking of Thai universities on international lists.
[xi] “The Sufficiency Economy Philosophy” is a contribution of HM King Bumiphol. Rama IX. The use of this reference is a second attempt to legitimize the “reform” proposal being described. In fact, the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy was a collection of suggestions and royal initiatives to enable subsistence farmers to make it through a time of economic decline and to gradually improve the lives of both highland and lowland farmers, whom HM insisted were the people that comprised the nation.
[xii] The elevation of HM’s Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to become national policy has been a calculated attempt to utilize the esteem of the King to benefit those in the government and commerce who wanted to expand production beyond agriculture.
[xiii] This, then, is the crux of the matter. At present things must be on hold because there is reform to be accomplished. The “Reform Agenda” is to “neutralize the “country’s situation”. That situation includes things that are sensitive, such as the increased involvement of the military in government, the transition of the monarchy from the legacy of HM Rama IX into the hands of HM Rama X, the attempt to limit the voice of the majority of the people because they insist on demanding benefits, and the inconvenient tradition of having functional political parties. Once a neutral situation is restored the Transformation Agenda can be undertaken that will move the economy into the digital, hi-tech type of production, elevate the country into first world status, and give the population a high quality of life while all the hard work will be done by … um … somebody.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.