Focus on Quality, not Quantity, says leading Thai economist

Professor Pasuk Phongpaichit: "Choose quality over quantity."

One of Thailand’s leading economists says we’ve got it all wrong and the country needs to change the way it thinks about the economy.

Pasuk Phongpaichit from Chulalongkorn University says Thailand should stop focusing on growth and consumption and prioritize quality of life instead. She was speaking at the Fukuoka Prize Symposium in Japan earlier this week.

Pasuk says that while Thailand’s economy has been doing well, inequality is becoming a big problem, with the gap between rich and poor getting ever wider.

“As we got richer, the gap between rich and poor grew wider and wider. Our politics have been in turmoil for over a decade. Behind that turmoil is our gaping inequality. But many people hesitate to recognize that. Growing inequality has been a problem worldwide for around 25 years.

This is also true in Thailand. Many of our leaders now accept that inequality is a problem. They give speeches and write manifestos promising to do something about it. They ask economists like me to give them advice, and I do so. But nothing much happens.”

She adds that economic inequality leads to social division, with those less fortunate being denied their basic rights and human respect. In addition, she sees a further threat from issues such as climate change leading to more floods, droughts, and food shortages, while an increase in automation may mean less work for many.

Pasuk is hopeful however, having seen what’s possible in other societies where public policies are shaped to combat inequality. She says Thailand needs to change its thinking and move away from the focus on growth and consumption. The country needs to use resources more efficiently and focus on creating less waste.

“That said, inequality cannot be stamped out overnight. Thailand needs to have the continuity in the administrations run by the democratically elected governments to solve the inequality on a non-interrupted basis.”

By: May Taylor                                                                                                        Source: The Nation