UN Common Country Assessment
Thailand 1997 - 1998

 

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Contents

Poverty and Inequality

A. Introduction
B. The incidence of poverty and growing inequality
C. The institutionalisation of poverty
D. Agriculture and the poor

    Governance and human rights

    A. Introduction
    B. Representation and participation
    C. Decentralisation and local governance
    D. Accountability and transparency
    E. Human rights and justice

    Education

    A. Introduction
    B. Relevance of the education system
    C. Quality of education personnel
    D. Management of education and the role of decentralisation
    E. Access to education

    Health

    A. Introduction
    B. Emerging and re-emerging health problems
    C. Quality use of drugs
    D. Health care financing
    E. Reproductive health
    F. Narcotics and substance abuse

        Working life

        A. Introduction
        B. The need for productive, quality employment and skill development
        C. The need for improved social protection and social safety nets
        D. The need for improved working conditions and occupational health and safety
        E. The need for strengthening institutions for social dialogue
        F. Labour migration

          Family life

          A. Introduction
          B. Violence against women and children
          C. Human trafficking
          D. Child labour
          E. The impact of HIV/AIDS on the family

            The environment

            A. Introduction
            B. Deforestation and the loss of biological diversity
            C. Pollution
            D. Management of marine resources
            E. Urbanisation

              Conclusion

              Annex I: Methodological aspects of the CCA

              Annex II: Thailand and the UNís global agenda

              Annex III: Indicators and the development of a common UN database

               

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              Introduction

              The Common Country Assessment (CCA) is an integral part of the Secretary Generalís UN Reform Agenda. It represents an independent assessment by the United Nations system of the development situation and critical issues facing a country, particularly in light of the declarations, goals, and plans of action agreed upon at the series of global conferences convened by the UN in the 1990s. The CCA of Thailand therefore was preceded by a review of the extent to which the country has achieved the goals specified in the UN Global Agenda. The outcome of that review is contained in Annex II. It constitutes an integral part of the CCA.

              Analysis of Thailandís development situation and challenges also took account of the countryís development goals and priorities reflected in the Eighth Economic and Social Development Plan. In fact, the system of indicators entitled "Components of Well-being" adopted by the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) for monitoring the Eighth Plan served as the framework for the identification and analysis of development issues.

              The CCA exercise for Thailand also included identification and analysis of appropriate indicators pertaining to specific development issues confronting the country. A selected set of these indicators for which data are available will be regularly measured to monitor progress towards addressing the development issues identified in the CCA. They will eventually constitute the UN common database that will be maintained, regularly updated, and electronically accessible to all UN agencies to facilitate programming of development co-operation. A minimum core of indicators, based upon the recommendations of the UN Statistics Division, are included at the end of this introductory chapter as well as at the end of the report in the consolidated list of indicators. The more specific indicators are listed at the end of chapters two through seven as well as in the consolidated list.

              The issues

              The CCA of Thailand identified 29 specific issues within seven clusters, which are of priority concern to the United Nations system in Thailand. As is apparent in the papers themselves, the issues cover a very varied fare and it is difficult to extract themes that are common across the whole range of topics presented. It would, however, be too simple to conclude that complexity is the only or over-riding characteristic. At the risk of oversimplification, perhaps the single most important theme that does emerge is that of the polarisation of the society into two increasing divergent sectors: rich and poor; rural and urban; Bangkok and the provinces; educated and non-educated; sick and healthy; employed and unemployed. While the creation of a dualism often simplifies what in reality is a continuum, it does draw attention to the critical issue that the distance between the poles appears to be becoming greater. Partly, the current recession affecting the country has exacerbated the differences but equally, too, many are of long standing and have become an institutionalised part of the Thai economy and society. It is incumbent upon the United Nations system to advocate the building of bridges that will try to reduce the gap between the various sectors in Thai society. The issues are identified in the pages that follow and the next stage is to recommend programmes and policies that can help to stop the polarisation and bring the sectors together in a truly meaningful process of sustainable development.

              Background to the development challenges in Thailand in the late 1990s

              Since mid-1997, a new perspective on Thailandís development has emerged. Several decades of rapid socio-economic development suddenly came to an end and the economy entered a deep recession. This new situation has been rigorously reviewed and reassessed by policy makers, academics and development agencies. The assessment showed the serious social impact of the crisis, most particularly on employment and real incomes. More importantly, it also revealed fundamental weaknesses in the economy and in political and social structures that were the underlying causes of the economic crisis.

              Thailand has long embraced a traditional growth-driven development strategy. Real gross domestic product (GDP) grew at close to 10 per cent per annum between 1988 and 1996. However, inadequate attention was paid to sustainability and equity. The result was environmental degradation and the lack of a strong social infrastructure. Poor secondary enrolment, inadequate training and skill development for workers, lack of social safety nets, drug abuse, prostitution, AIDS, and eroding family and community ties are among major problems that have started to weaken the economic and social base of this high-growth economy. The bubble economy was fuelled from 1988 by massive capital inflows including short-term loans and equity, in the context of a fixed exchange rate to the $US. The result was a spiralling growth in the real estate, construction and financial sectors that generated a consumption-led growth which only magnified and accelerated the meltdown. That meltdown was triggered by the slowdown in export growth in 1996 which brought about an outflow of foreign capital and a speculative attack on the baht.

              Although unbalanced economic growth has been the major long-term destabilising factor, the lack of effective governance was the major contributor to the eventual collapse of the fast-track development. In both the private and public realms, the lack of transparency, accountability, and mismanagement yielded disastrous result. Inertia and rigidities in the public sector have made it difficult for policy makers and administrators to produce the rapid, flexible, and effective responses needed to manage a fast-changing economy that had become increasingly integrated into the global economy.

              These problems had been recognised by many parties. The country launched and made continuous process in two major processes of change, namely the 1997 Peopleís Constitution and the Eighth National Economic and Social Development Plan (1997-2001). The new Constitution provides the most important institutional framework that will empower the people to realise their rights and liberties as well as to participate more effectively in political and public decision-makings. The new constitution launches a more open and accountable political system, and enhances the system of checks and balances. The Eighth Plan introduces and endorses a holistic people-centred development strategy with an aim to affect long-term restructuring and reorientation of the development and public administration system. Under the current economic crisis, the Government has reviewed and revised the Eighth National Economic and Social Development Plan in order to address the critical issues and to lay a sound economic structure for future development. There are four guiding principles for the revision of the Eighth Plan.

              • To change the macro-economic framework by giving the highest priority to maintain economic stability.

              • To provide clear guidelines and measures in minimising the economic impact on the population and the society.

              • To accelerate the improvement of economic structure in order to lay a sound foundation for production in line with the changing world market.

              • To accelerate the improvement of administrative and management systems for the National Development.

              An enduring tension that has underlain the crisis, as well as Thailandís prior development experience, has clearly been that between public and private sectors. The private sector has generated not only so much of the capital required for investment in infrastructure but also much of that required for social development in health and education, for example. To strike a balance between private interests and priorities and those of the broader public good will be a critical part of Thailandís transition towards a more equitable and sustainable path of development. The issues identified in this CCA are seen to be among the principal development challenges to be addressed in order to achieve this goal. The United Nations and its agencies can again act as a bridge between competing interests and the CCA is presented as a preliminary map to indicate how United Nations can best assist Thailand achieve a real and sustainable development.

              Recommended minimum core indicators for the CCA for Thailand:

              • Population estimates by sex, age, urban and rural and, where appropriate and feasible, ethnic group

              • Life expectancy at birth, by sex

              • Total fertility rate

              • Infant mortality, by sex

              • Child mortality, by sex

              • Maternal mortality

              • Contraceptive prevalence rate

              • Average number of years of schooling completed, by sex, and where possible by income class

              • GDP per capita

              • Household income per capita (level and distribution0

              • Monetary value of the basket of food needed for minimum nutritional requirements

              • Unemployment rate by sex

              • Employment-population ratio, by sex, and by formal and informal sector where appropriate

              • Access to safe water

              • Access to sanitation

              • Number of people per room, excluding kitchen and bathroom

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              Dated: 26Jan1999