Thursday, February 1, 2007

More Sufficiency Bullshit from The Nation

Explaining sufficiency economy to foreigners is important, but it is vital for govt to instill its values here

For the benefit of people who still need to be convinced that a sufficiency economy is preferable to Thaksinomics as Thailand's economic management model, Deputy Prime Minister MR Pridiyathorn Devakula offered easy-to-follow arguments backed by compelling reasons in a letter published in yesterday's edition of The Wall Street Journal. In the letter, he addressed the widely misunderstood concept of the sufficiency-economy model. He said a sufficiency economy was neither an economic paradigm nor an economic theory, but rather a philosophy that could be applied to all aspects of life, including economic affairs.

"A sufficiency economy does not deny the principles of globalisation and the market economy, which have been the pillars of our economic management and will continue as such. Two key principles of the sufficiency-economy philosophy are 'moderation' and 'self-immunity'," he wrote.

One possible reason why the concept has been misinterpreted so often is because it sounds too much like Mahatma Gandhi's "village-based self-sufficiency", which was totally different. In his non-violent struggle for independence from then-imperial British rulers, Gandhi urged the development of village-based self-sufficiency in India. To illustrate his point, he referred to the spinning wheel as a symbol for civil disobedience and a practical method of non-cooperation against the British textile monopoly. But then, only the ignorant could have confused the two concepts, which leaves us with the other reason why Thailand's sufficiency-economy model has been so consistently misconstrued even by intelligent people. The concept has been deliberately mislabelled and misrepresented, because many foreigners are reluctant to let go of Thaksinomics, which was, and continues to be, seen as more business-friendly than the sufficiency-economy model.

Perhaps that is because the sufficiency-economy model advocates moderation and immunity. As Pridiyathorn put it, moderation that would "remind us not to grow or expand beyond our capacity, which results in economic excess or bubbles". He said building immunity would remind us to introduce proper risk-management systems and good governance, to safeguard our economic stability and improve our resiliency against the shocks and changes that come with globalisation.

Thaksinomics is a catch-phrase that covers deposed PM Thaksin Shinawatra's economic-management style aimed primarily at boosting economic growth at all costs. Thaksinomics is characterised by an unprincipled, often whimsical, economic-management style that is not hedged against the negative impact of globalisation and the corroding effects of political corruption. Thaksinomics could have had a devastating effect on the Thai economy if Thaksin had not been stopped when he was removed from power on September 19. Policies implemented under Thaksinomics coupled with populist policies that pandered to the unprincipled wants of people have accumulated whopping Bt150 billion worth of debts, both on and off the budget.

These debts accumulated mostly because Thaksin rushed through populist policies to score quick political points without concerning himself with the crucial question of how to fund them, as a responsible leader should. The sufficiency-economy model is far from perfect and still has room for improvement and refinement but nevertheless diametrically opposed to everything that is bad about Thaksinomics. Our question to critics who jump to conclusions by dismissing it out of hand as "inward-looking" or "anti-foreigner", among other negative labels is: what is there not to like about it?

It is important for the Surayud government to continue to try to explain it to foreign governments and international investors. But of greater importance is determining how to educate our citizens, particularly the rural masses still enamoured with Thaksin's populist policies, about the financial ruin that Thailand may have narrowly averted when corruption-prone Thaksin was removed from power in disgrace.

People must shown Thaksin's irresponsible populism for what it was. They must understand that his game was based on the false premise that the entitlements he showered on people, particularly rural folk, were something they could enjoy without worrying about how the government would pay for it. The truth of the matter is there is no such thing as a free lunch. Taxpayers will have to start paying for Thaksin's populist excess and the mountain of debt he incurred.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You want to convince Thaksin's village supporters that his spending on them was irresponsible? That will be hard. They will take whatever handouts they can get, and they will feel (with some justification) that it finally is their turn.