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WB chief praises HM's 'sufficiency economy'


WORLD Bank president James Wolfensohn yesterday expressed his high regard for His Majesty the King's philosophy of ''sufficiency economy'', indicating that the concept is well-suited for the comprehensive development of Thailand.

Speaking at the 50th anniversary of the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), Wolfensohn said he did not take it lightly when he heard about sufficiency economy in the King's speech in 1998, in which HM defined it as a moderation path toward sustainable development.

Wolfensohn, who is attending the 10th United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in Bangkok, went on to praise the King as a man of strong cultural and historical sense. He added that the monarchic institution is a source of enormous strength for Thailand and an advantage that other countries do not have.

Sufficiency economy has indeed become a centrepiece of economic and social development planning of the NESDB, which is in the process of drafting the blueprint for the 9th Plan (2002-2006). It is the philosophy that stresses the middle path as the optimal route.

''His Majesty the King urged the practice of moderation, self-reliance and adherence to the principles of honesty and integrity while exercising knowledge with prudence,'' said Dr Savit Bhotiwihok, the minister to the Prime Minister's Office, who hosted the event.

''Sufficiency economy does not imply self-sufficiency. On the contrary, His Majesty the King favours a choice of a balanced development strategy in line with forces of globalisation while shielding oneself against unforeseen shocks and excesses.''

Savit also quoted the King's speech of Dec 4, 1998, as saying: ''If one is moderate in one's desires, one will have less craving. If one has less craving, one will take less advantage of others. If all nations hold this concept of moderation, without being extreme or insatiable in one's desires, the world will be a happier place.''

Almost coincidentally, the Thai government's aim to make human capital or people-participation the centrepiece of its economic and social development plan is in line with the World Bank's recent approach.

Thailand has passed a new Constitution, which widens the scope for people's participation in the democratic process. This year's election will be a watershed period for the country's democratic development. It has also decentralised the decision-making process by, at this preliminary stage, allocating 20 per cent of the central budget spending to local administrators.

Under Wolfensohn's leadership, the World Bank has moved over the past two years to adopt what he calls a comprehensive development framework, dubbed CDF, as the hallmark of its programme. At the heart of this framework, which is now underpinning the World Bank's development and poverty reduction programme, lies people participation.

Instead of treating its development projects as an object of activity, Wolfensohn said the World Bank has emphasised the partnership of the people in the projects to make them successful.

''Although this sounds quite simple, it takes us a while to get there,'' he said.

With a human face and consideration for those who will be affected by the development programme, the World Bank hopes that its projects will become more effective in improving the quality of life and reducing poverty in the developing world. So far it has been subject to criticism, rightly or wrongly, that its development projects have not helped developing countries to make a difference and that some, particularly the building of dams, have contributed to the destruction of natural resources.

However, Wolfensohn admitted that he is confronted with a big challenge over how to turn the world into a better place to live.

''With three billion people still living under US$2 a day, with growing inequity between rich and poor, with forests being degraded at the rate of an acre a second, with 130 million children still not in school, with 1.5 billion people still not having access to clean water, and two billion people not having access to sewerage, we cannot be complacent,'' he said.

''More than this, we must be concerned that 80 to 90 million people are being added annually to our planet, mainly in the developing world.''




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