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Thailand’s sustainable economy model a remedy for populist anger

Economic development based on moderation and sustainability could alleviate some of the discontent brewing in the world, one of Asia’s leading thinkers and international trade expert said.

“Nationalistic trends are increasing and have been exacerbated around the world,” said Supachai Panitchpakdi, who was formerly Director General of the World Trade Organization, Secretary General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development and a Thai deputy prime minister. “But there is positive lining to some of these difficulties – if they lead to an effort to find a new moral compass.”

One such guide could be Thailand’s concept of the Sufficiency Economy – the subject of a Friends of Europe Policymakers’ Lunch on 8 December 2016. The Sufficiency Economy emphasises moderation and development from within, and applies to a range of fields, including finance and trade. But its most notable successes have been in rural development, where it encourages a focus on small-scale agriculture, appropriate farming technologies and sustainable use of water. This has helped Thai farmers make the most of limited resources.

Though the ideas of the Sufficiency Economy have evolved over several decades, its basic values match those of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, adopted in 2015, call for new development models that end poverty and hunger, improve health and education and protect the environment.

“Agenda 2030 will bring people closer together so that we can share in the benefits of globalisation,” Supachai said. “But it is not only about economic balance. It is also about mindset. You have to believe in living together.”

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