Allow me, first of all on behalf of the Government and the
people of Thailand, to extend to all distinguished delegates and participants
a very warm welcome to Thailand. I wish you a very pleasant and fruitful
stay throughout the session.
It is a great pleasure and privilege for me to address once again the inaugural meeting of the Fifty-eighth Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) today. As some of you who were here last year may recall, I was also here a year ago to deliver my address to the ESCAP session for the very first time as Prime Minister of Thailand. It was quite an experience for me, particularly on the next day when discovering the false headlines that Thailand was going to close the country to foreign investors. I was totally surprised to learn that such an open, liberal and democratic country like Thailand could be closed to foreign investors and partners in progress. I sincerely hope my address today will not result in misleading headlines tomorrow.
The theme of this year's session, "Sustainable social development in a period of rapid globalization: challenges, opportunities and policy options", is both important and timely. We are all well aware that globalization, if properly managed, can bring about wider choices and new opportunities for prosperity. Rapid globalization, in many circumstances, has had considerable adverse impact on developing countries, namely the aggravation of poverty, the increase of social and income disparities, and the increasing marginalization of poorer countries in the global economy. I am therefore thankful to ESCAP for providing this opportunity to discuss innovative ways and means to address core social development concerns in light of rapid globalization. We all agree that social and human dimensions constitute an integral part of overall balanced development strategies, especially those designed to combat poverty at its roots.
Like many other developing nations in the Asia-Pacific region, Thailand must urgently confront the issue of poverty elimination, which is coupled with growing socio-economic disparities and a widening lack of opportunities and limited resources for the poor. That is why my Government has given the highest priority to poverty alleviation in our national development agenda after assuming office last year.
Our development efforts, however, were hampered by the sharp global economic downturn, which was made worse by the Nine-Eleven attack on the U.S and the free world. We had to swiftly adjust our development strategies and priorities to cope with a new set of realities and requirements so as to maintain the regenerating of economic growth in a manner that concurrently reduces income disparities and social inequalities.
Various measures have since been undertaken to revitalize our economy as well as to achieve sustainable livelihood, particularly for the rural poor. In this regard, my Government has adopted a two-pronged approach towards revitalizing our economy. On the one hand, we are stimulating FDI investments and improving domestic demand, particularly at the grass-roots. On the other hand, we are enhancing the competitiveness of our export sector, with emphasis on Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). We also plan to ensure continuous financing support by establishing a Bank for SMEs in the very near future.
At the grass-roots level, the Government has set up the People's Bank facility to provide low-income people with access to micro-credit. The Village Revolving Fund was set up to provide a firm financial foundation for villagers to earn supplementary incomes. The "One Village, One Product" initiative was launched by our Government to encourage each community to develop and market its own specialty or champion product, which meets international standards and serves both domestic and international requirements and outlets.
As poverty is multi-faceted, the fight to overcome poverty must go beyond generating adequate incomes for the poor. We must also ensure the provision of adequate basic social services, including comprehensive health-car and a universal health insurance scheme, basic quality education and education reform.
Poverty eradication is not an end in itself. What we need is to enhance the self-sufficiency and strength of local communities and individuals to live in dignity, to attain their highest potential, and to contribute to society at large. In this regard, His Majesty the King's Sufficiency Economy Philosophy has served as the blueprint for the country's economic and social development. It is a way of developing the people's livelihood in harmony with local wisdom, know-how, and domestic resources. We believe that the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy is consistent with the principles of sustainable long-term development.
In the present world of rapid globalization and interdependence, domestic
economies are interwoven with the global economic system. National development
efforts to eradicate poverty and achieve sustained economic growth need
to be supported by a conducive and enabling international environment.
All this will depend on many factors, such as international financial
stability, a non- discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system,
as well as true and non-discriminatory global
For developing countries, the lessons of self-reliance and internal clarity have to be established before we can move ahead and engage fully with the international community on an equal footing. Such lessons need to be based primarily on our domestic resources and strengths, consistent with our own national objectives and priorities. At the same time, we also need a supportive and enabling external environment.
Thailand, for its part, is going through this process of clarifying our domestic priorities and objectives to serve as an important foundation for sustainable and long-term economic development. I believe it is vital for all developing countries to embrace this process and not just emulate any simple model that has proved successful for other countries. We must each find the model that suits us best.
To achieve the internationally-agreed development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration, a new partnership among developed and developing countries and multilateral organizations is imperative. In this regard, the Monterrey Consensus adopted by the International Conference on Financing for Development outlined key areas for international cooperation in addressing the global challenges of financing for development. The Consensus, in particular, stressed the need to ensure the effective and equitable participation of developing countries in international economic decision-making and norm-setting, as well as in the reform process of the international financial architecture in support of development. I truly believe that, through even closer dialogues and cooperation among development partners, the Spirit of Monterrey can be realized.
The successful conclusion of the UNCTAD X Mid-term Review Conference hosted by Thailand three weeks ago also deserves special mention. The Conference helped UNCTAD to set priorities for its activities to meet the immediate needs of developing countries in line with the outcomes of major conferences such as the Doha Development Agenda and the Monterrey Consensus. Most importantly, the Conference highlighted UNCTAD's role in establishing a more balanced world economy in support of development for all. The International Institute for Trade and Development (ITD) in Bangkok, which is the most concrete implementation of the Bangkok Plan of Action, would be an institution through which UNCTAD could provide developing countries with trade negotiation capacity and more long-term capacity-building for the productive sector.
In the next few months, world leaders will gather at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg. The Summit will be the best opportunity for us to renew our commitments towards the common global goals of economic and social development in a way that can reduce the impact on the environment.
It is Thailand's fervent hope that the results of the Monterrey Conference, the UNCTAD X Mid-term Review, and the WSSD will complement one another to set us on the right path for a global environmentally-friendly sustainable development for all countries. All of these important conferences will form part of the international fabric for creating a conducive global environment for all nations, both developed and developing. We must all do our best to build on the achievements that have already been made.
Current development efforts in the Asia-Pacific region require an appropriate cooperative framework and support from multilateral and regional organizations. We are therefore most appreciative that ESCAP has been playing an important role in strengthening collaborative efforts among countries in the region for the well-being of their peoples.
In this regard, I have learnt with pleasure that this Commission session will consider the significant management issue of revitalizing the Commission's work, including its thematic priorities and conference structure. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the Executive Secretary in particular for his untiring efforts in undertaking this major reform in order to make the work of ESCAP more relevant to the rapidly changing environment of the Asia-Pacific region and more responsive to the needs of its members and associate members. I am confident that the Commission will be able to arrive at a meaningful and effective outcome.
Permit me to extend my best wishes to all for a successful and meaningful conclusion of your deliberations.
I now have the honour to declare open the Fifty-eighth Session of the
Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.
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