Creative Economy : The Strategy to Reform Thailand
“Thailand reform” is one of the most beautiful ideas over years of darkness of Thai society. However, the idea has been strongly condemned for months. This reflects a lack of trust from the opposition, who always condemns everything that the government does. The neutral group is not so confident. They think that the ideas seem to be too beautiful and there is a lack of strategy and approach which are appropriate and aligned with the dynamic change in the globalisation era.
Difference between luxurious lifestyle in the city and poor one in the country becomes the toughest requirement for Thailand Reform Committee and the Reform Assembly. This is especially the case when the problem about this gap had deeply rooted all through 50 years of Thailand capitalism development. More importantly, the problem relates to structural issue. You cannot inject money, resources, and experts into the countryside and just hope that the problem will be self-solved.
Thailand reform needs to start from the reform of conceptual framework in considering the problem of difference. We should not blame politicians and capitalism, or condemn city people for being selfish. Instead, we should see the “new opportunity” in the globalisation, where Thai countryside which used to be a loser in the industrial revolution may turn into the winner in the new economic reform which does not need drivers like capital, machines, technologies, or enormous amount of natural resources any more. The necessary input for the new economy is “creativity”, which is an abundant amount of resource found in countryside lifestyle and culture. City people who have completely adapted themselves to Western capitalism over decades, on the contrary, have fallen into disadvantageous position in the beginning of the joyful creative economy time.
Reforming Thailand by using the creative economy as a starting strategy is practically an advantageous initiative. This is because a lack of capital and technology of countryside people will become a non-issue, and economic center will be shifted from the unoriginal busy capital city to the countryside full of culture. More importantly, if the creative economy centred around the countryside has grown to a certain level, it will attract capital, technologies, and talents from the city to move to the countryside full of new business opportunities instead of getting stuck in the boring capital city which is deteriorating due to traditional economic recession.
The hidden asset of Thailand countryside is the delicate original culture. However, discovering and polishing an abundant amount of cultural jewels need to be done by experts who deeply understand the nature of creative economy. So, the countryside people cannot initiate this type of future economy on their own. They need some capital and support from the government in the beginning period, especially for transforming aesthetic culture integrated in the lifelong countryside lifestyle into products and services that people from different cultures can associate with and appreciate.
Most anthropological and cultural researches on Thai countryside in the past focused on understanding the locality from the perspective of a person who temporarily lived with local people, and the perspective of a city person full of deeply analytical view. However, there has been no practical research which changes the original beauty of local culture into international storytelling which maintains the value of the locality. The mission needs experts from various disciplines to realise.
The political crisis since 2006, when considered superficially, is a conflict between Bangkok and countryside people. But if thoroughly analysed, the real problem is Thai people’s wrong strategy in handling the globalisation. This is especially the case for Bangkok people who fall prey to the prosperity of Western culture without realising that Thailand is only a production base of the complicated capitalism supply chain. Wealth of city people is therefore based on cheap wages for labor which does not contain any value added creation. Moreover, it pressures city people to work hard, so much so that the friendship of Thai people towards others is gradually fading. This is probably a reason why city and countryside people become strangers. Each has own perspective and benefits which are inevitably driven by the current of globalisation.
On the opposite, Thai countryside can still strongly maintain its Thai originality despite the quiet invasion of globalisation through television and mobile phone communication. However, the cost of maintaining local culture is the inferiority in terms of knowledge and technology for living in the modern world. This makes Thai countryside stuck in long term poverty while developed countries can adjust themselves and maximise benefits from the globalisation.
Over decades, countryside people had started to learn city lifestyle and absorb the convenience of capital city. So, they question the inequality in living even though they only superficially understand city lifestyle. The quality of life in the city is not much better than that of countryside. People are striving to make a living on a daily basis in order to deliver the total benefits traded off by their hard effort to the globalisation process.
Solving political crisis by starting from the issue of gap between city and countryside people is one-sided assessment of the situation. The deeply rooted cause of the problem is the facing of globalisation which is full of both crises and opportunities. City people need to stop deceiving themselves that they have smartly adapted to the globalisation while they are only a bottom part of the global capitalism chain. The countryside people, on the other hand, need to stop its policy of self-isolation from the globalisation. This is because humans are undeniably social animals, so technology, knowledge, culture, and lifestyle are always exchanged and absorbed among one another.
The best strategy in handling the globalisation is thus not to follow others like a blind or to shut yourself out like a deaf. On the contrary, it is to deeply and comprehensively study. This includes both the fact and the deception, both words from the supporter and the opposition, and both the opened and the hidden parts, so that globalisation can be applied to serve Thai people, not vice versa, either with or without intention, like in the past.
Creative economy is the new battlefield of the globalisation while traditional industrial economy is deteriorating. Thailand has only 2 options – to hold on to traditional concept which leading powerful countries are dropping, or to thoroughly study the new wisdom which is going to become the future of all powerful countries. Of course, walking on the new path is highly risky. But if Thai people from all sectors brainstorm and cooperate with one another without any boundary, it is possible to discover the new wisdom to break through the crisis, similar to the many acts shown by our ancestors.
Both countryside and city people - each possesses a key to the creative economy, which is the rich culture which is a raw material for generating never-ending creative products, and the expertise in transforming raw material into international products which meet the needs of worldwide consumers. Without the cooperation between both parties, Thailand will be buried deep down in the darkest valley. This is because if the traditional economy collapses, political situation will become the worst. The riot for political power will be added with the fight for food supply, and Thailand will be in the true chaos.
Nevertheless, if countryside and city people interweave their different expertise, Thailand will be able to change cultural raw material into creative products appreciated by people all around the world. Poverty of both countryside and city people will be lessened, and gap will not be an issue. Love and smile will then make a return.
Translated by Thaya Wichayathian
- 1 july 2010
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