Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Collateral Damage

As I wrote previously, I am concerned about the amount and degree of debt that my family, friends, villagers and fellow residents of the Isaan are getting into, during this current period.

Without getting into the details of Thai politics, let me simply say this, as background to the loan/debt issue: 1) The Isaan has always been the poorest and most neglected region of Thailand, up to present day; 2) The current government owes its life to the voters of the Isaan (just as the Taksin government, in the early 2000s); and 3) The current government of Yingluck Shinawatra has not forgotten how it came to power and is pumping huge amounts of Thai bahtinto the area, including backing a liberal loan policy for all banks.

What this all boils down to for the average Khon Thai living in Thailand’s Northeast is that loans are much easier to get as well as job opportunities have increased tremendously.

Because baht is more easy to procure, people are building – not only for personal lifestyle improvements, but also in the hopes of generating more income in the future. Loans come most easily to government employees, but if you have land and put it up as collateral, it’s easy to get a loan.

OK, sounds good, right?

Well, it would if the average Khon Thai knew more about borrowing based on ability to pay back.

My experience in America is that I had to clearly demonstrate a realistic ability to pay back the loans I was taking out before the banks would even consider loaning me the money. I don’t get that impression, here in Thailand.

I think that far too often loans are given (primarily by banks) based on collateral – not the ability to pay back. That is, it doesn’t matter to the lender if the borrower cannot pay back the loan as long as the borrower’s collateral (usually land) is of higher value than the loan. Under this kind of modus operandi, it actually benefits the lender for the borrower to default.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

New Theory and Self-Sufficient Economy

There is a building boom going on in the Isaan and everyone is borrowing greater and greater amounts of baht, putting their land up as collateral. I’m actually worried about this and will write some more about it as time goes on. In the meantime, it would be good to revisit what His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej instructed the Thai people back in 1992 with his “New Theory” and 1997 with his “Self Sufficiency Economy.”

I forget where I got this from, but I’m pretty sure it was from a Thai government website and I will quote it exactly as written:

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej developed the philosophy of the Sufficiency Economy to lead his people to a balanced way of life and to be the main sustainable development theory for the country.  The theory is based upon a Middle Path between society at the local level and the market in the global context. By highlighting a balanced approach, the philosophy allows the nation to modernize without resisting globalization, but provides a means to counteract negative outcomes from rapid economic and cultural transitions.  The Sufficiency Economy became critical during the economic crisis in 1997, in which Thailand needed to maintain stability to persist on self-reliance and develop important policies to recover.  By creating a self-supporting economy, Thai citizens will have what they need to survive but not excess, which would turn into waste.

“His Majesty proposed that it was not important for Thailand to remain an “economic tiger,” or become characterized as a newly industrialized country.  Instead, His Majesty explained that sufficiency is living in moderation and being self-reliant in order to protect against changes that could destabilize the country.  The Sufficiency Economy is believed to adapt well within existing social and cultural structures in a given community, if the following two factors are met:

  • subsistence production with equitable linkage between production/consumption
  • the community has the potential to manage its own resources

“As a result, the Sufficiency Economy should enable the community to maintain adequate population size, enable proper technology usage, preserve the richness of the ecosystems and survive without the necessity of intervention from external factors.  The concept is now commonly included in many government projects. 

The Principle of Self-Reliance

“Furthermore, His Majesty has recommended a secure balance in the five following aspects to achieve the principle of self-reliance:

  • State of Mind: One should be strong, self-reliant, compassionate and flexible.  Besides, one should possess a good conscience and place public interests as a higher priority than one’s own.
  • Social Affairs: People should help one another, strengthen the community, maintain unity and develop a learning process that stems from a stable foundation.
  • Natural Resource and Environmental Management: The country’s resources need to be used efficiently and carefully to create sustainable benefits and to develop the nation’s stability progressively.
  • Technology: Technological development should be used appropriately while encouraging new developments to come from the villagers’ local wisdom.
  • Economic Affairs: One needs to increase earnings, reduce expenses, and pursue a decent life.

“As His Majesty has stated, “If we contain our wants, with less greed, we would be less belligerent towards others. If all countries entertain this - this is not an economic system - the idea that we all should be self-sufficient, which implies moderation, not to the extreme, not blinded with greed, we can all live happily.”

“The Self Sufficiency Economy theory has led to diverse interpretations by many different groups.  However, His Majesty has rejected extreme perspectives on his ideology, stating that self-sufficiency does not require families to grow food and make clothes for themselves.  But, each village should have some quantity of sufficiency.  For instance, if agricultural production exceeds the amount needed for the village they should sell the remaining amount to a nearby village, close in distance, to avoid unnecessary transportation costs.

The New Theory

“His Majesty’s self-sufficient ideology has a strong linkage to his New Theory, initiated in 1992.  Seeking ways to help the people engaging in agriculture, His Majesty introduced the New Theory, to be implemented at the Royally-initiated Wat Mongkol Chaipattana Area Development Project, to serve as a model of land and water management for the farmers. According to the theory, the land is divided into four parts with a ratio of 30:30:30:10. Based on this ratio, 30% is set aside for pond and fish culture, 30% for rice cultivation, 30% for growing fruit and perennial trees, and the remaining 10% for housing, raising animals and other activities.

“The New Theory consists of the three following phases:

  • Phase 1: To live at a self-sufficient level which allows farmers to become self-reliant and maintain their living on a frugal basis.
  • Phase 2: To cooperate as a group in order to handle the production, marketing, management, and educational welfare, as well as social development.
  • Phase 3: To build up connections within various occupation groups and to expand businesses through cooperation with the private sector, NGOs and the government, in order to assist the farmers in the areas of investment, marketing, production, management and information management.

“In short, the Self Sufficiency Economy and its expected outcomes are best summarized, by His Majesty himself; “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…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.”


UNEP RRCAP resources, UN ESCAP (2006). 
Green Growth at a Glance: The Way Forward for Asia and Pacific

Monday, May 13, 2013

Thailand Footprint

Interviews are pretty rare for me, these days, but Kevin tracked me down in my hideout in the Isaan and posted the results on his blog, "Thailand Footprint," at:  http://wp.me/p33ZZ6-bC

The blog is always posted in the sidebar, also.

Saturday, May 11, 2013


When my one-year Thai visa expired, I left the country and returned back to “The States,” during February and March of 2013, to visit my side of our family in the United States.

I’ve written about how all expats experience loneliness in their adopted lands at one time or another; often or seldom. The reason I returned to the USA was not so much loneliness or a feeling of “missing” family as it was a condition of my visa to leave Thailand by its expiration. I didn’t have to go back to the US to re-apply for another one-year visa. I could have gone to a neighboring country and done that there. But, I’d already planned that upon my first visa’s expiration, I would use that as a “good excuse” to visit family and friends in California and Florida.

Once back in the United States with my Gault-Williams, Gault and Williams families and some members of their extended families (even my first wife and her husband!), I realized how much I had missed them all!

Where is “home” for the expatriot? Is it in his/her adopted country or is it back where s/he came from? Different expats have different opinions on this oft talked about question (amongst expats). Most, I think, are like me. Your home is where you are. What’s the idiom? “Home is where you hang your hat.” In my case, it’s a baseball cap my son Senyo gave me, from Kaua‘i. or the palm cowboy hat I brought back with me to Thailand.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Death 4 - Go Gently

One night, visiting Lee “Baby” Simms, the guy who inspired me to get into radio, we revisited this piece on death by Dylan Thomas.

The villanelle implies that one should not die without fighting for one’s life, or afterlife. While the Welsh poet concedes that death is unavoidable, he encourages all men to fight it, not only for their own sake, but to give closure and hope to the family they leave behind.

It used to convey my feelings about death, but now that I’ve seen so much pain in the dying process, my wish is that we all go gently into that good night…