Crown Property Bureau director-general Chirayu Isarangkul na Ayutthaya is a vehement promoter of His Majesty the King’s sufficiency economy philosophy, and claims it saved Thailand from the 2008 – 2009 global financial crisis and, more recently, the debt crisis in Europe.
In a keynote speech at a dinner party held last week by Chulalongkorn University’s Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration, Chirayu said the philosophy spread widely following the greed-driven Tom Yam Kung crisis in 1997. The crisis helped to limit the appetite of Thai financial institutions and business enterprises for risk-taking, and taught them to live within their means.
“Thailand’s relative prudence after the Tom Yam Kung crisis helped to push the country out of the economic downturn very quickly,” he said.
Chirayu is optimistic that Thailand will not fall back into its bad habits, given that the philosophy has taken firm root in the policies of leaders in its financial and economic sectors. Helping this is the initiative to expand the philosophy in a sustainable way, through education.
Recently, the Office of the Basic Education Commission signed a cooperation agreement with the Siam Commercial Foundation, Siam Commercial Bank and the Sufficiency Economy Research Project under the Crown Property Bureau, to move the sufficiency economy philosophy forward in educational institutes. These institutes will serve as learning centres of Sufficiency Economy in Education, in response to the needs and interests of educational administrators, teachers, students and local communities.
He said the sufficiency economy philosophy lay in three fundamentals: moderation, reasonableness and self-immunity. Together, they lead to balance and security and sustainability of life, society, environment and culture.
“We are trying to stimulate sufficiency-economy thinking at all levels, not just recounting the thinking. To make this work, school administrators, teachers and students have to be brought into the process,” he said.
Chirayu expressed dissatisfaction with politicians’ failure to adopt sufficiency economy principles and acting against the fundamentals to win votes. This has led to decades of unfavourable political results, he said. However, all will be encouraged to keep up with good work and lead others to good examples.
Chirayu said that by the end of this year, the number of schools serving as learning centres of Sufficiency Economy in Education would reach 9,999. As well as school administrators, teachers and students who adhere to the philosophy, the project hopes that the knowledge will spread to their families and communities. Eventually, he expects the philosophy to be taught effectively in all of Thailand’s 40,000 schools.
Sufficiency principles can also gain popular understanding through business means, such as the projects of the Mae Fah Luang Foundation at Doi Tung, in Chiang Rai province. Farmers at Doi Tung are working together in a social enterprise that sells their products around the country, and the local people are living within their own means, supported by their local products.
In another session at the same Sasin-hosted event, Doi Tung Development Project’s chief development officer ML Dispanadda Diskul said the project’s main object was to help people in the farming community and raise their income through the shared ownership of a brand. Although the brand has not yet spread to global markets, the project has considerable accomplishments domestically.
Success, for a social enterprise, lies in its ability to deliver what the locals need, he said.
“We’re not giving what they’re not ready to take. Many knowledge programmes turn to waste if they don’t match the needs [of the people involved],” he said, citing the experience of projects under the Mae Fah Luang Foundation.
In this regard, he sees a difference between social enterprises and CSR projects undertaken by private companies.
“CSR is something like a social enterprise, but it’s a way of companies giving something back to society, while ours is getting people on their own feet.”
Nestle’s executive director for corporate affairs Noppadol Siwabutr said that at his company, the term “returning something to society” sounded bad, as it suggested that companies robbed people for profits.
He said that at Nestle, the principle of “shared value” had been adopted for sustainability of the business.
“CSR alone is a corporate strategy, but under “shared value”, everything must be integrated into the business process,” Noppadol said. “Nestle believes it is responsible for taking care of farmers around the world who supply raw materials to the global conglomerate. We don’t believe much in giving; we believe in sharing.”