One of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to end the poverty. Thailand has been relentlessly working on this issue and able to lower the poverty rate from 10% in 2014 to 6.24% in 2019. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is reversing this progress. Not only does the Thai government have to ramp up its effort to combat the poverty, but it also needs to build the nation’s resilience to other crises in the future.
China has a successful record of fighting poverty. In November 2020, the Chinese government declared its success in eradicating absolute poverty. Targeted poverty eradication (TPE) approach was the main strategy employed to lift 83 million people (8.5% of total population) out of poverty in 2013. The keys to TPE’s success are identified as follows:
- The government had a clear policy and strong determination. Common goal was set to create cohesiveness among government agencies, and collaborative mechanism was established to facilitate cross-ministerial and inter-agency coordination. Each government department had a set of targets to achieve.
- Measures to alleviate poverty were tailor-made for each target group depending on the context of each household and geographical location.
- All measures must ensure sustainability by enabling the poor to have stable jobs and income.
- Science, technology and innovation were employed to enhance productivity, reduce cost and improve access to opportunities and resources among the poor.
Although poverty is a complex issue tying in with the economy, society, health and education, Chinese TPE clearly demonstrated that capacity building is the sustainable approach over financial aid. Fostering businesses and creating jobs in the area are keys and these efforts require strong support from the government in terms of policy and measures.
The effort to alleviate poverty in Thailand has been carried out in multiple dimensions – economy, society, health and education – by various ministries based on their authorities and expertise. However, there is no system to effectively coordinate the implementations across government agencies, nor to monitor and evaluate the work that have been done. In addition, the solutions applied have a tendency to take on a one-size-fit-all approach. Nevertheless, some policies such as the welfare program are moving towards targeted poverty eradication approach.
NXPO has developed a strategy and policy recommendations to implement poverty eradication in Thailand. An establishment of a national poverty eradication committee consisting of relevant ministers and chaired by the Prime Minister is proposed. The committee is in charge of setting policy, goals and directions, as well as allocating budget and resources and removing legal barriers. For an operational mechanism, a regional working group responsible for each of the six regions of Thailand is proposed. Each regional working group is responsible for reviewing and selecting TPE programs to be implemented in the region with participation of community representatives and a fair benefit sharing. Potential TPE programs involve a wide range of businesses in agro-industry, tourism and creative economy. Selected TPE programs will obtain government funding, access to financial facility to grow the business, and access to mentorship provided by government agencies, academic institutes, science parks or private enterprises.