Poverty Alleviation in Thailand

At NRRU, I analyzed household data in Nakhon Ratchasima as part of a PMU-A funded project on poverty alleviation. Despite Thailand's economic growth, 7.3 million people lived below the moderate poverty line in 2020, with income inequality and agricultural vulnerabilities exacerbating the issue.

Poverty Alleviation in Thailand
Prompt: "impoverished community with the upper half of the picture being a normal community representing poverty alleviation effort"

As part of my responsibility at NRRU, I was tasked with analyzing and managing household data in Nakhon Ratchasima. This is part of a bigger project on poverty alleviation that was funded by PMU-A since 2021. Here's a quick summary on the history of poverty alleviation in Thailand.

Poverty alleviation has been a pressing concern in Thailand for decades. Despite being one of the most rapidly growing economies in Southeast Asia, Thailand still struggles with a significant wealth gap, with a large proportion of its population living below the poverty line. According to the World Bank, in 2020, approximately 7.3 million people in Thailand lived on less than $3.20 per day, which is considered the moderate poverty line. To address this issue, the Thai government has implemented various initiatives aimed at reducing poverty and promoting economic growth. This essay will discuss the current state of poverty in Thailand, the causes of poverty, and the strategies employed by the government to alleviate poverty.

One of the primary causes of poverty in Thailand is the significant income inequality between the rich and the poor. The wealthiest 10% of the population holds more than 50% of the country's wealth, while the poorest 10% hold less than 3%. This disparity is largely due to the lack of access to education, job opportunities, and social services in rural areas. Many rural communities lack basic infrastructure, such as roads, healthcare facilities, and schools, making it difficult for people to access essential services and improve their socio-economic status.

Another significant contributor to poverty in Thailand is the agricultural sector's vulnerability to natural disasters and market fluctuations. Many farmers in Thailand rely heavily on agriculture as their primary source of income. However, frequent floods, droughts, and price volatility in agricultural commodities have led to crop failures, livestock diseases, and reduced incomes, further exacerbating poverty.

To address these challenges, the Thai government has implemented several initiatives aimed at reducing poverty. One of the key strategies has been to invest in rural development programs, which focus on improving infrastructure, providing access to education and healthcare, and promoting entrepreneurship and job creation. For example, the government has launched the "Sufficient Economy" philosophy, which aims to promote self-sufficiency and sustainable development in rural areas. This approach emphasizes the importance of community-based initiatives, such as cooperatives and community enterprises, which enable rural communities to manage their own resources and make decisions about their development.

Another key strategy has been to provide financial assistance to low-income households through cash transfer programs. The government's "Poverty Reduction and Social Protection" program, launched in 2015, provides a monthly stipend of 3,000 baht (approximately $100) to eligible households. This program has helped to reduce poverty rates, particularly among the elderly and people with disabilities.

In addition, the government has implemented policies to promote economic growth and job creation. The "Thailand 4.0" initiative, launched in 2016, aims to transform the country's economy into a high-income economy by promoting innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship. This initiative has led to the establishment of special economic zones, which offer tax incentives and other benefits to attract foreign investment and promote industrial development.

Furthermore, the government has recognized the importance of education and skills development in reducing poverty. The "Free Education for All" policy, launched in 2009, provides free education to all students from kindergarten to high school. This policy has helped to increase access to education, particularly in rural areas, and has contributed to a significant reduction in poverty rates among young people.

Now looking at the current situation in Thailand, or at least in my province, there's also another intrinsic problem with the alleviation effort in Thailand (or should I say in Thai citizens). Portion of the impoverished household here doesn't want to improve. They essentially prefer to stay below the poverty line so that they can still receive support from the government. In some cases, they are willing to have their house flooded so that they can receive the government relief package (which include small monetary amount).

I'm not sure yet what the best way to handle this situation would be, but I believe MHESI's effort on trying to pooling in academic and higher-education institution into the loop is still better than doing nothing.

-- Pai.