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OPINION: Social Inequality Will Cost Thailand Dearly
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
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    Social Inequality Will Cost Thailand Dearly

    Thailand needs more than a quick fix to inequality
    By The Nation
    Published on June 4, 2010

    Our socio-economic problems are so deep-rooted they will take generations to repair. We must start with the education system

    Regardless of how the issue is framed, the current political crisis stems from deepening socio-economic inequality in Thai society. The wealth from economic prosperity does not filter down to a majority of Thais, but has been concentrated within a small group of people. The government's reconciliation plan will not be effective if the issue of unequal access to opportunity is not properly addressed.

    The political turbulence over the past few years is a sign that the issue needs immediate and systematic attention. And the reconciliation effort will not produce any meaningful result if it fails to better balance the wealth from economic growth. The key element in this reconciliation effort is to ensure that every voice will be heard and every possible opportunity will be fairly given.

    In reality, the gap between the haves and have-nots is widening, not contracting. This is especially evident in the income gap between Bangkokians and those in rural provinces. In 2010 the income of Bangkokians is 13 times higher than that of people in the northeastern region, compared to five times higher in 1987. Over the same period, the number of Thais living under the poverty line was reduced by only 8 per cent. Among Bangkokians, only 1 per cent of people live below the poverty line. In the Northeast, the figure is 13 per cent.

    Some of the red-shirt leaders describe this inequality as the "elite" versus the "underprivileged". Ironically, it is not the traditional social hierarchy that has caused the worsening income disparity. The widening gap has become increasingly evident over recent years as people with more opportunity manage to cash in on businesses that apply new technology, or take advantage of monopolistic opportunities that give them unfair advantages over competitors.

    However, populist policies and handouts are not the answer to this problem. Measures such as free medical treatment or easy loans can help ease the burden of the poor only in the short term. The root of the malaise lies in lower-income earners still not being able to raise their standard of living in a sustainable manner.

    The inequality issue must be solved at the root cause - that is, through educational reform, to enable people to stand on their own two feet. The government must thus initiate programmes that develop individual potential. The knowledge gained from a better quality education will help provide immunity, allowing people to be able to withstand crises.

    At present, the rote education system teaches only memorisation, and fails to encourage analysis, independent thought and self-development. His Majesty the King's self-sufficiency concept should be instilled within the education system to help people understand what is really meaningful amidst the whirlwind of globalisation.

    Investment should also be allocated to rural provinces rather than concentrated in Bangkok and other major cities. Provincial politicians should become more active in attracting businesses that are suitable and sustainable for local environments, to promote employment in rural areas instead of encouraging millions of migrant workers to move to Bangkok to find better jobs. Companies should also play a greater role in community development. Joint cooperation between the public and private sectors in the provinces should be promoted, as the task of regional development cannot be left to the government alone.

    The rule of law must be instilled and strictly enforced, and the sanctity of democratic institutions enhanced. The current crisis has also been caused by the public's lack of trust in these institutions, leading to allegations of double standards applied to rich and poor.

    Good governance must be promoted at every level within the public and private sectors, as well as in civil society. Thailand has one of the world's worst records for graft. Corruption scandals make the news on a daily basis, but very few of these cases are ever pursued to a final administration of justice and punishment for wrongdoers. This abject failure to observe the rule of law only encourages people in power to be yet more corrupt.

    If we allow this state of affairs to continue, the reconciliation effort will become just meaningless rhetoric.

    The well off are getting richer and the poor are getting nowhere.

    The Government must address this issue or The Kingdom will reap the whirlwind!!
    The events of two weeks ago will only be the curtain raiser.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
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    Re: Social Inequality Will Cost Thailand Dearly

    Most certainly an accessible-by-all, preferably free for the most part, comprehensive education system is an essential if there is to be any long term resolution to the current problem of the "two nations".
    However, such is useless unless there are real jobs with real opportunities-how many university graduates currently work as shop assistants in Bangkok alone?
    It is also all very well investing in rural provinces but the infrastructure-railways for example- need to be in place to support such.
    All this will require money, some of which will need to come from taxes fully collected by a properly paid Civil Service that is consistently heavily punished from taking bribes.
    In turn this will take a proper and objective legal system, unlike the one at present that can charge, try and sentence arsonists who burn down a remote town hall to prison within days, but drags its feet for years over charging and trying those that occupy airports to the discomfort and inconvenience of thousands of guests -and others- in the country.
    I have no high hopes that those at the top of the economic pile are willingly going to see the light, any more than the monarchy and aristocracy did in pre-revolutionary France-and with much the same results.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Thanked 10 Times in 3 Posts

    Re: Social Inequality Will Cost Thailand Dearly

    Social Inequality Will Cost???... it has already cost.

    But good news... in the South poverty rates have eased in recent years...from an average of 36% down to 17%

    Over the same period, the number of Thais living under the poverty line was reduced by only 8 per cent. Among Bangkokians, only 1 per cent of people live below the poverty line. In the Northeast, the figure is 13 per cent.

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