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  • Democratic Governance: Striving for Thailands New Normal

    Anand Panyarachun

    Full text incorporating keynote addresses to the Bank of Thailand Annual Seminar, 17 September 2015, and the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, 23 March 2016.

    25 March 2016 Page 1 of 22

    Democratic Governance: Striving for Thailands New Normal

    Anand Panyarachun

    We are at an interesting time of political transition, and many of you may

    be trying to envisage what Thailands new normal will be when we finally

    emerge. My predictions are probably as good as yours. With the benefit

    of hindsight, however, we can see that globalization, consumerism,

    extravagance, dishonesty, and immoderation have led to management

    failures in both government and business.

    It is therefore time to have a better understanding of our past behaviour

    and how it contributed to the present situation. We should be mindful of

    the Sufficiency Economy thinking formulated by His Majesty King

    Bhumibol Adulyadej in terms of its key principles of moderation,

    rationality, and immunity. A better grasp of these concepts can help us

    confront problems or crises and find solutions.

    I would like to suggest what I believe to be the four essential elements of

    the new normal in the development of Thailand the elements that will

    contribute to true and enduring change.

  • Democratic Governance: Striving for Thailands New Normal

    Anand Panyarachun

    Full text incorporating keynote addresses to the Bank of Thailand Annual Seminar, 17 September 2015, and the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, 23 March 2016.

    25 March 2016 Page 2 of 22

    Element One

    The first element in Thailands new normal rests on sustainable and

    widespread economic development. I emphasize sustainable and

    widespread. In the past, we focused on the overall rate of economic

    growth but neglected the quality of that growth as well as the equitable

    distribution of income and opportunities. The Asian financial crisis of

    1997, and the more recent global financial crisis, both illustrate the

    dangers of unbridled economic growth. We have also been reminded

    that growth fuelled by populist measures which disregard fiscal discipline

    are unsustainable and leave problems in their wake. In Thailand, the

    first-car purchasing and rice-pledging schemes were both examples of

    short-term stimulus measures. Policies of this kind are pushed by

    governments the world over to secure quick popular support with

    inadequate regard for their negative economic repercussions.

    Sustainable economic development must focus on strengthening the

    foundations of the economy. This entails raising underlying economic

    competiveness, be it through improving public sector efficiency, state

    enterprise reforms, developing skilled and flexible labour, or upgrading

    education and research. Raising competitiveness requires appropriate

    incentives through effective market mechanisms.

  • Democratic Governance: Striving for Thailands New Normal

    Anand Panyarachun

    Full text incorporating keynote addresses to the Bank of Thailand Annual Seminar, 17 September 2015, and the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, 23 March 2016.

    25 March 2016 Page 3 of 22

    The states role should largely be as an enabler, establishing an

    environment that is conducive for market competition to enhance

    economic efficiency. Things the state should do include providing

    regulations to limit monopolies and establishing frameworks for

    consumer protection. Things the state should not do include competing

    directly with the private sector or issuing laws and regulations that

    undermine efficient market mechanisms.

    These principles were in fact enshrined in Thailands 1997 constitution

    and reflected in the Trade Competition Act of 1999, but enforcement of

    the laws was never sufficiently exacting. As a result, competition in many

    sectors, particularly in basic services such as transportation,

    communications and energy, remains inadequate. Improving the

    efficiency of state-owned enterprises is an important element in this

    regard, and I shall return to it later.

    For development to be sustainable, the fruits of economic growth must

    be spread widely and fairly to foster social cohesion and continued

    economic and political legitimacy. Many of the economic and social

    problems we currently face, including the simmering political tensions

    and sporadic clashes we have suffered in the past decade, can be

    traced back to the injustice and inequality inherent in our society. Studies

    also suggest that economic disparity in itself retards economic growth,

    which is why the topic is of such interest in so many countries. Even the

  • Democratic Governance: Striving for Thailands New Normal

    Anand Panyarachun

    Full text incorporating keynote addresses to the Bank of Thailand Annual Seminar, 17 September 2015, and the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, 23 March 2016.

    25 March 2016 Page 4 of 22

    United States, the worlds leading economic power, is home to some of

    the greatest economic inequality in the developed world. Unless

    seriously addressed, inequality and injustice in all their forms will

    eventually hold back a countrys development and breed political

    upheaval, even violence.

    Element Two

    The second element in Thailands new normal is promoting an open and

    inclusive society. Apart from the equitable distribution of income

    discussed earlier, we must ensure equal rights, liberties, and

    opportunities for all segments of society. Every group, every religion,

    every region, every rung of society must enjoy these to be able to

    participate collectively in directing national development. This will instil a

    critical sense of ownership in the nations destiny that encourages each

    and every member of society to keep the state under constant scrutiny.

    Liberty and equal rights are not simply about the right to vote. The

    demands and views of everyone must be heard and respected not just

    those of the victors in elections. Majoritarian rule does not give a

    mandate to the winning party to do as it pleases in a winner-takes-all

    fashion. As the American libertarian James Bovard once observed,

    "Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep

    voting on what to have for dinner." If democracy is to survive in the long

  • Democratic Governance: Striving for Thailands New Normal

    Anand Panyarachun

    Full text incorporating keynote addresses to the Bank of Thailand Annual Seminar, 17 September 2015, and the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, 23 March 2016.

    25 March 2016 Page 5 of 22

    term and create happiness, there has to be tolerance and an acceptance

    of diversity in society. Minority groups must receive equal benefit from

    the electoral process.

    An open and inclusive society goes hand in hand with freedom of

    expression and respect for diversity of views and beliefs. In much of

    Asia, including Thailand, where harmony is a core value and conflict

    avoidance a first response, our challenge is to embrace criticism, the

    weighing of pros and cons and disagreements, and accept them all as

    part of the maturation of the democratic process. In a democracy things

    are not always strictly black and white, right or wrong. Often there is no

    absolute right or wrong, just different perspectives and judgments. In

    striving towards a genuinely open and inclusive society, we must learn to

    move forward together on the basis of diversity without causing division

    or conflict.

    In an open and participatory society, the media have a very important

    role to play in reporting opinion neutrally, creating balance and

    preventing distortion. Modern technology has opened the way to the

    rapid dissemination of information, and opened up unprecedented space

    for public discourse. The Internet has revolutionized participation in

    debate and the political process, and fostered many online communities.

    There are a multitude of voices. Some may be contradictory, some more

    informed than others, and some personal opinion, gossip, or speculation.

  • Democratic Governance: Striving for Thailands New Normal

    Anand Panyarachun

    Full text incorporating keynote addresses to the Bank of Thailand Annual Seminar, 17 September 2015, and the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, 23 March 2016.

    25 March 2016 Page 6 of 22

    It is a vast marketplace of ideas and, as in all markets, not everything is

    of equal value. So long as our institutions enable people to understand

    how to assess ideas in this marketplace selecting the rigorous and

    reasonable, rejecting the shoddy and reckless democracy is not simply

    sustained but thrives.

    As Thailand approaches elections in the near future, it will be imperative

    for the winners to consider themselves representatives of the entire

    country, and not just of the people who voted them in. They have a duty

    to address the concerns of all interest groups and promote consensus in

    society. Striking that balance is an art. I hope all political parties have

    learned important lessons from our painful past, and will do their utmo

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