Essay Sufficiency Economy Philosophy Of Life


How to adapt the Sufficiency Economy in our life?

Traffic jams, social problems, criminal problems, theft and so on. All of them are the social issues which have to solve as quickly as it can be. As we have seen in our daily life-the criminal point is the main problem in our social. Why? If it occurs, we will see that the other issues will follow like links of chain. However everything can be solved or made better, but how can we do? To solve quickly solution, we must solve problems from the cause of them. Still, who or what are the causes of them? Finding the answer we can recognize ourselves- the human passions (desirability or aspiration in something that we can’t take them when we die, namely, money, honour and etc. Without any doubts, there is a good way that can relieve our problems in social- Sufficient Economy.

The Sufficient Economy is set up by the King XI Bhumibol Adulyadej. I believe that no one has never heard about it. The Sufficient Economy is famous for its quality and effect. Why? It’s because every citizen-the poor, the rich, and the millionaire and so on should act what it tells. The Sufficient Economy is composed of three main things- sustainability, moderation and broad-based development. They are the most essential parts for the Sufficient Economy. First, the meaning of sustainability is to keep something as long as we can. Second, moderation is being pleased with what we have. And the last one, broad-based development is set up the protection before something bad happen. If we can practice as what I have written, we can be called that we have the way of the Sufficient Economy in our mind.

I’ m a Thai student who have the King’s Sufficient Economy keep in my deep heart. I always perform the Sufficient Economy so as to do better duties, manage something wisely; improve my works every time and etc.

First, the sustainability-for me I think I will adapt it by learning through my life. This method I have to learn knowledgeable things which can be benefit for me. The knowledgeable things have to be an enduring knowledge and also they can apply efficiently in my life. Knowledge is a treasure, but practice is the key to it.

Second, the moderation- in my daily life I will get my allowance before coming to school everyday. During the day, I will manage my allowance by separating into 2 parts. First part I will take it to buy my lunch or snack. Second part I won’t spend it on anything, I will save it up. I will put it into my savings box everyday. When time passed, I will have much more money; therefore, I will count my gold or coin, and then take it to my account. The more we save up, the more we left in our account. If we can act as what I have done. The country’s problems which are about dept in every people can solve without any doubts. In contrast, if we said no to do it, I recognize that everyone knows what it will happen in the future. Next, I think the way we can help the country has many things, including, transportation. Nowadays, one of the problems which we have encountered with is the pollution-air pollution, sound pollution, and so on. The causes of them come from the people in the country. Therefore, the Sufficient Economy can help us. For instance; firstly, you can use public transportations-BTS, bus, van, subway, ship, instead of private vehicles. This way can help decreasing air pollution, sound pollution, traffic jams, and strain in users. If there aren’t all of them, people who use the public transportation will be happier resulting in the good health, on the other hand; it can help the country store some energy or some good environment and pollution so that we can use it when it is essential. Time is also important for us seeing that we waste time in doing useless things. If we think in the other way, time is the Sufficient Economy, too. So time is the vital thing which we have to manage systematically such as planning for the journey. Even if we aren’t care about it, but the value of it is so enormous. For example, every morning and every evening in rush hours, we long for taking a little time to work and go home. One way to figure out is laying out a trip before going out. We should set the schedule when we will leave, what we will do at the exact time or else to plan what time we will do our activities, doing homework, gardening, taking a bath, having a good time and etc. Or while we are traveling we should figure out whether way is the nearest or use only little time and fuel. This can help reserve an energy too. It is easy to spend time wisely than to earn a penny. Next is the important thing which we should do. It is the easy to say, but difficult to do. Whenever we have to do something we always look for a new gadget, though, there are many quite old equipments around us. From the Sufficient Economy, the King wrote that we should use things that can easily find in our house or village. Don’t be ambitious to find new things. We should use things around us as wisely as we can. To illustrate, I have many notebooks which don’t have good appearances or the first page as I wish, albeit, I should use them now that I don’t have to spend money on thing which I have. The more you can save up for this thing, the more you will have your money left. Or the other thing that the King always concern is about the resources as the King's philosophy states that "resources and productions are for individual consumption, the excess of the consumption would be for sales." He concerns about over-consuming in food, fashion, beauty, gamble in his citizen. Therefore I recognize that we should consume useful food, less beauty, fashion and gamble. For instance; I have plants or herbs in my backyard, when it’s time to cook them, I will arrange them into two groups-first group is for cooking and second group is for selling. This way can help people to find an extra income easily.

In fact, I confirm that the Sufficient Economy can help me in anyway. Everything can be the Sufficient Economy if we know how to apply or adapt them. If you want to know, you should do all above which I have written. And you will recognize what it is.

The economic crisis of 1997 affected everyone in Thailand, even His Majesty the King. Seeing many of his subjects suffering, he advised the Thai people to change their economic philosophy in order to cope with present economic adversity and withstand future economic insecurity. His Majesty’s words have become known as the Philosophy of Sufficiency Economy and have been used as the guiding principle in drafting the current 9th National Economic and Social Development Plan. 

The philosophy can be summed up in one paragraph, as translated from the Thai:

“Sufficiency Economy is a philosophy that guides the livelihood and behavior of people at all levels, from the family to the community to the country, on matters concerning national development and administration. It calls for a ‘middle way’ to be observed, especially in pursuing economic development in keeping with the world of globalization. Sufficiency means moderation and reasonableness, including the need to build a reasonable immune system against shocks from the outside or from the inside. Intelligence, attentiveness, and extreme care should be used to ensure that all plans and every step of their implementation are based on knowledge. At the same time we must build up the spiritual foundation of all people in the nation, especially state officials, scholars, and business people at all levels, so they are conscious of moral integrity and honesty and they strive for the appropriate wisdom to live life with forbearance, diligence, self-awareness, intelligence, and attentiveness. In this way we can hope to maintain balance and be ready to cope with rapid physical, social, environmental, and cultural changes from the outside world.”

This philosophical statement has lent itself to interpretation by diverse groups of people. First, we can dismiss outright the extreme interpretation that the Sufficiency Economy means complete self-reliance or autarky. In an autarchic system, a country or unit thereof relies upon itself and its people to produce all its needs with no dependence on others. It may do this voluntarily (cutting off contacts with the outside world) or by necessity (because it is incapable of generating those contacts). But His Majesty the King explicitly rejected this interpretation: “This self-sufficiency does not mean that every family must grow food for themselves, to make clothes for themselves; that is too much. But in a village or sub-district there should be a reasonable amount of sufficiency. If they grow or produce something more than they need they can sell them. But they do not need to sell them very far; they can sell them in nearby places without having to pay high transport costs.”

 Some people have attempted to link this economic philosophy with the so-called “Gandhian Economy.” Along the lines proposed by Mahatma Gandhi, this is an economy based on family-level or village-level small-scale enterprises and traditional methods. It may have been appropriate to India in the mid-twentieth century, when the people were poor and technology was limited. But in the present, it may be too restrictive to expect families to do everything by themselves using simple tools and machinery, such as traditional spinning wheels to make cloth. Perhaps the basic idea of Gandhian simplicity – a life less encumbered by modern needs and modern technology – could make people happier. But in the very open world of today, self-sufficiency a la Gandhi is too extreme.

We also hear people relating the Sufficiency Economy to the knowledge and applicability of Buddhism. In Buddhism, life, especially spiritual life, is enhanced by cutting out excessive wants and greed. True happiness may be attained when a person is fully satisfied with what he or she has and is at peace with the self. To strive to consume more leads to unhappiness if (or when) consumption is not satisfied or falls short of expectations. A sufficiency economy in this context would be an economy fundamentally conditioned by basic need, not greed, and restrained by a conscious effort to cut consumption. This is probably acceptable insofar as it does not reject gains in welfare and well-being due to greater consumption.

Looking back, it can be seen that His Majesty has talked about the sufficiency idea since 1974. In his customary birthday speech of that year, he wished everyone in Thailand “sufficient to live and to eat” (Por You Por Kin). This was indeed a precursor to the sufficiency economy. His Majesty also said: “The development of a country must be by steps. It must start with basic sufficiency in food and adequate living, using techniques and instruments which are economical but technically sound. When this foundation is secured, then higher economic status and progress can be established.” (See Apichai Puntasen, “The King’s Sufficiency Economy and Its Interpretation by Economists,” prepared for the 1999 Year-End Conference of the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), Pattaya, 18-19 December 1999.)

This is very clear: it shows that His Majesty did not deny economic progress and globalization, as some people have interpreted. Indeed the word “globalization” (โลกาภิวัตน์ , lokapiwat) is used in the statement on Sufficiency Economy that His Majesty has endorsed. The notion that Sufficiency Economy is anti-globalization should be put to rest forever.

Still, there are attempts by various segments of the Thai population to dissociate this new economy from the realm of mainstream economics that stresses economic rationality and efficiency in resource allocation. It is obvious that His Majesty’s Sufficiency Economy is not the type found in a mainstream economics textbook, but it would be inaccurate to interpret it as the antithesis of mainstream economics in every respect. On the contrary, I think we can understand Sufficiency Economy within the framework of economic rationality and efficiency in allocative choices. The difference is not in type, but in degree or magnitude of economic behavior. His Majesty used the phrase “middle path” or “middle way” to describe the pattern of life every Thai should lead – a life dictated by moderation, reasonableness, and the ability to withstand shock. Can we find something in mainstream economics that captures the spirit of this philosophy?

I propose to use my own understanding of economic optimization. It is possible to see the Sufficiency Economy as consisting of two frameworks. One is the inevitability of facing the globalized world in which economic efficiency and competition are the rules of the game; the other is the need for economic security and the capacity to protect oneself from external shock and instability. Thinking within the first framework – the basic tenet of mainstream economics – we must realise the opportunity costs involved in every decision we make. We gain from specialization and division of labor because the opportunity costs of doing everything by ourselves is much higher. The laws of comparative advantage and gains from trade are at work in today’s world. But it would be foolish to pursue all-out specialization without basic security, especially in food, shelter, and clothing. This is where the framework of the new Sufficiency Economy comes in. This concerns the basic capacity of the people of a country to look after themselves. The optimization principle applies when we seek to answer the question: How much of our time and energy should be devoted to the first and second frameworks, respectively? In other words, how much resources should be allocated to producing for trade based on comparative advantage principle, and how much for basic security? The best mix between the two allocations would represent the optimal state of affairs, both in mainstream and Sufficiency Economics.

Medhi Krongkaew
The author is professor of economics at the School of Development Economics, National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA).

Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia. Issue 4 (October 2003). Regional Economic Integration

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