Essay - Sustainable Development Through Human Resources and Institutions Development: a Thai Perspective

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Sustainable development has been a topic of discussions and debates among government officials, business professionals and other members of the society since the beginning of globalization more than two decades ago. Numerous attempts around the world, including Good Governance and Corporate Social Responsibility, have been made to ensure sustainable development. In this essay, an alternative approach to sustainable development called the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy is introduced. Although the philosophy encompasses sustainable development in many fronts (e.g. individuals, communities, agriculture, government), the focus of this essay is on corporate sustainability since business organizations undoubtedly play a pivotal role in sustaining any economy and society. Clearly, corporate sustainability covers in significant part the development of human resources and business institutions. Most businesses in Thailand have long adopted the Anglo/US capitalism model of short-term maximization of shareholder value. Major principles underlying the Anglo/US approach focus on maximizing stock prices, interest of major shareholders, and transparency in financial transactions. The Thai business sector has been badly affected by the 1997 Asian economic crisis. Numerous business organizations have been collapsed and/or taken over by foreign investors. In particular, Thai SMEs, which employ approximately 90% of the Thai workforce, have been greatly affected by the crisis. This situation does not support the long-term social and economic development of Thailand. After the 1997 Asian economic crisis, a philosophy called Sufficiency Economy was reiterated by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest reigning monarch, as an approach to develop a more resilient and sustainable economy in Thailand. The Sufficiency Economy Philosophy stems from remarks made by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej throughout his years on the throne. It stresses the ‘middle’ path as the overriding principle for Thai people’s conduct and way of life at the individual, family, and community levels. Within the philosophical framework, choice of balanced development strategies for the nation in line with the forces of globalization is allowed, with the need for adequate protection from internal and external shocks. To be more specific, the philosophy of Sufficiency Economy indeed comprises three components and two underlying conditions. First, Sufficiency entails three components: Moderation, Reasonableness, and requirement for a Self-immunity system, i.e. the ability to cope with shocks from internal and external changes. Second, two underlying conditions necessary to achieve Sufficiency are Knowledge and Ethics/Virtues. ‘Sufficiency Economy’ requires breadth and thoroughness in planning, carefulness in applying knowledge, and the implementation of those plans. As for the Ethics/Virtues condition, ‘Sufficiency Economy’ enforces the conditions that people are to possess -- honesty and integrity -- while conducting their lives with perseverance, harmlessness and generosity. The Sufficiency Economy Philosophy serves as a guide for the way of living/behaving for people of all levels, and is scalable with universal domain applicability, including business organizations. From a perspective of the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy, a business is considered as an entity inseparable from the society. No business can be sustained unless the society in which it functions is sustained. When a business is “sufficient”, it only achieves the basic level of the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy. In order to ensure a truly sustainable development for the Thai society, Thai businesses should, according to the advance level of the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy, cooperate with other businesses in their relevant industry and across different industries, and government institutions to ensure a pleasant society. Moreover, according to the highest level of the...
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