King Rama IX’s ‘suf­fi­ciency econ­omy’ works in prac­tice, study finds


AN ACA­DEMIC study has shown that im­ple­ment­ing the “suf­fi­ciency econ­omy” phi­los­o­phy ad­vo­cated by King Rama IX re­sults in eco­nomic and so­cial ben­e­fits, Thai­land Devel­op­ment Re­search In­sti­tute (TDRI) re­search di­rec­tor Som­chai Jit­su­chon said.

Som­chai, who led the re­search team, pre­sented their find­ings at a sem­i­nar ti­tled “Sus­tain­abil­ity Com­mu­nity In­di­ca­tors” (SCI) yes­ter­day.

This is the fist time that econ­o­mists have stud­ied whether the late King’s ad­vice leads to im­prov­ing the stan­dard of liv­ing of those who put it into prac­tice. The con­cept has been dis­cussed for decades, but Som­chai cre­ated the so-called “Sus­tain­abil­ity Com­mu­nity In­di­ca­tors” to find and mea­sure sup­port­ing ev­i­dence.

He de­vel­oped 15 in­di­ca­tors for cal­i­brat­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the phi­los­o­phy – mod­er­a­tion, per­se­ver­ance, pru­dence, hon­esty, rea­son­able­ness, knowl­edge, self-re­liance, re­silience, shar­ing, pub­lic mind, so­cial co­her­ence, lead­er­ship, ex­plo­sion from within, en­vi­ron­ment pro­jec­tion and com­mu­nity in­no­va­tion. Som­chai calls the com­bined in­dex “SCI-S4S – suf­fi­ciency for sus­tain­abil­ity”.

Som­chai said he tried to re­duce bias as he de­signed ques­tions to ask 70,000 fam­i­lies across the coun­try. “If peo­ple know they are be­ing asked about King Rama IX’s suf­fi­ciency econ­omy, they might only say good things be­cause they loved and re­spected him,” he ex­plained.

So, he de­cided not to use the words “suf­fi­ciency” or “mod­er­a­tion” in the ques­tions pre­sented to re­spon­dents.

The study learned that peo­ple in the North­east have adopted sus­tain­abil­ity prac­tices to a con­sid­er­able ex­tent in their lives, get­ting the high­est score at 65, fol­lowed by those in the North with scores of 64.5 and peo­ple liv­ing out­side mu­nic­i­pal ar­eas at 62.4.

The study also looked at changes in peo­ple’s be­hav­iour and the out­come in terms of eco­nomic and so­cial gains.

Som­chai also de­vel­oped out­come in­di­ca­tors com­pris­ing hap­pi­ness, poverty-free, health, ed­u­ca­tion, em­ploy­ment, suf­fi­cient ex­pen­di­ture, suf­fi­cient in­come, liv­ing con­di­tions, as­sets, en­vi­ron­ment cap­i­tal, equal­ity and so­cial cap­i­tal. He called it the “SCI-OC-out­come”.

The re­la­tion­ship be­tween im­ple­men­ta­tion and re­sults, how­ever, was not so straight­for­ward. For ex­am­ple, those in the North­east got only 61.8 in the SCI-OC scores, while those in the North reach 62.8, and Bangkokians got the high­est score at 68.6. Som­chai says that many fac­tors are in­volved in the out­come in­di­ca­tors, in­clud­ing the devel­op­ment of bet­ter in­fra­struc­ture in Bangkok, which has led to a bet­ter liv­ing stan­dard.

“Over­all, the im­ple­men­ta­tion of suf­fi­ciency econ­omy has re­sulted in im­prove­ments in many di­men­sions of devel­op­ment,” he con­cluded.

The study found that those who had changed their be­hav­iour in line with the phi­los­o­phy ex­pe­ri­enced an in­crease in in­come and as­sets, bet­ter liv­ing con­di­tions, em­ploy­ment, bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion, bet­ter health, a re­duc­tion in poverty and in­creased hap­pi­ness.

He said that the Na­tional Eco­nomic and So­cial Devel­op­ment Board can use his study to ad­vise the gov­ern­ment about devel­op­ment pro­jects for spe­cific lo­ca­tions.

“The SCI can also be used to show the rest of the world that the suf­fi­ciency model does work, and it’s not just a mat­ter of faith,” Som­chai said.

How­ever, he does not ex­pect the SCI to be­come a main­stream gauge of sus­tain­able devel­op­ment, though he hopes it will be em­braced as an al­ter­na­tive mea­sure, sim­i­lar to the Gross Na­tional Hap­pi­ness in­dex adopted by Bhutan.

The suf­fi­ciency econ­omy is in line with the “means of im­ple­men­ta­tion and fi­nanc­ing for devel­op­ment” ap­proach un­der the United Na­tions’ Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals, he noted.


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