Sufficiency economy criticized

10 12 2012

In an article that readers may have missed, the Bangkok Post reported on a series of opinions about the sufficiency economy idea and found disappointment and criticism. While it isn’t clear in the article, the comments may be from a conference or they may be a part of a retrospective on the idea associated with the king’s birthday.

The most “positive” account was from Chamroon Suaydee, a representative of environmental group the Eastern People’s Network, who said that there’s been a lot of talk about the concept but little has happened. For PPT, this is essentially a fact as the sufficiency economy is a rhetorical device that demands loyalty to the monarchy.

Chamroon said that, “unlike Thailand’s 10 million middle-class citizens, the poor have been stripped of resources to cultivate a self-sufficient lifestyle and are starting to doubt that they will ever find what is considered ‘enough’.” He then proceeds to blame the people he claims to represent for “failures.”  Farmers use pesticides and chemical fertilizers: “Farmers also know that organic fertiliser is good, but they choose to purchase [chemical fertiliser] instead of making organic fertiliser…”. He says the future for farmers is contract farming. Actually it is their present, and has been around for decades and has been expanding rapidly.

Likewise, Hardeep Grewal, head of corn marketing at Syngenta Asia Pacific is critical, although he also seems somewhere in the past when he notes that farmers need to invest in “children’s education, health, house, utensils and farm equipment. In the current economic environment, small farmers will find it difficult to survive just by doing farming,” and he adds that “farmers will look at other sources of income and seek help to do the farming.” Again, this pattern has been evident in Thailand for several decades. But he does not advocate sufficiency economy.

Veerachai Chaochankit, “chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries’ agricultural machinery club, said although self-sufficient agriculture is a good idea, only 100,000 households have committed to the practice out of 35 million farmers.” He says farmers don’t adopt the idea because “it’s not fun…”.

“Not fun” is an odd way of putting it, but the message is clear, as Grewal seems to imply it is not relevant, Chamroon says it is some kind of “middle-class dream” and Paul Teng, a senior fellow of food security at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University says “self-sufficiency does not make sense economically,” and adds that “the opportunity costs of self-sufficiency are not worth it…”.


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