“Can you promise me we will move forward together? Brothers and sisters, and friends should proceed hand in hand. We must not be trapped in conflicts and poverty as in the past. We must go ahead with determination, to make Thailand a country of equality.”
This was a key part of Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha’s speech delivered at the seminar “National Fund for people to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality” held at IMPACT Muangthong Thani on March 18, 2019. Tens of thousands of members of the “Village Fund and Urban Community” networks participated in the key event.
The speech underscored the government’s focus on the implementation of the Village Fund and Urban Community project, which aims to strengthen the grass-roots economy at the community level, as well as tackle poverty and inequality problems in the most efficient manner.
The Prime Minister pointed out that Thai people are facing numerous problems, which vary according to different locations across the country. To efficiently deal with the problems, the government cannot start from steps 7 to 8, but must start at the first step of sowing the seed, nurturing the seedlings and cultivating the mature plant, in rotation. All Thais must move forward together with no one left behind.
Over the past five years, the problems have been listed and resolved according to the degree of urgency, with attention given to the continuity and interconnection of the problems.
The “Master Plan of the Village Fund and Urban Community Project” is a vital mechanism to strengthen the funds under the Project in the long run. It was recently proposed to the Prime Minister by representatives from the Village Fund and Urban Community networks and 38 Rajabhat universities.
It is undeniable that the Project is playing an instrumental role in driving forward the grassroots economy at the community level. The Project helps create careers and raise household income at the village level, which will subsequently promote a stronger economic base. It acts as a source of revolving capital enabling people in the villages and communities to create jobs and income, or generate additional income. It also boosts social and economic immunity for communities through the state welfare system.
The Master Plan of the Village Fund and Urban Community Project will be used as practical guidelines for the development of the Project, which will partly help Thailand eliminate or relieve persistent economic, poverty and inequality problems, as well as prepare people for the new era to come.
This conceptual framework stems from the mobilization of ideas and suggestions from the sub-district networks of the Village and Community Funds in every sub-district nationwide. The main problems of poverty and disparity among people in the villages and communities who are unable to access funding sources for use to support their careers are addressed through meetings to mobilize opinions and suggestions from nationwide sub-district networks of the Village and Community Funds, held during November and December 2018.
During January and February 2019, the information, needs and opinions of all the villages and communities were gathered together by sub-district representatives who organized forums in the field. Initially, data collected from 6,878 sub-districts was studied and used as a basis to draft a conceptual framework of the Master Plan of the Village Fund and Urban Community Project by Burapa University and Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University during February and March 2019. The work included a feasibility analysis and a summary of guidelines for implementation by Rajabhat Universities nationwide and the Office of the National Village and Urban Community Fund during March 2019.
The work was then crystallized into 15 activities that depict how the fund will look over the next 20 years. It anticipates a sustainable village fund consisting of 1) National banks; 2) Grass-roots economic development mechanisms in villages and communities; 3) Village and community social welfare networks; 4) Learning and development centers for grass-roots economic development; and 5) Volunteer development initiatives based on Royal guidelines, leading to sustainable development.
Assoc. Prof. Natee Khlibtong, Chief Executive Officer of the National Village and Urban Community Fund Office, stressed that the conceptual framework will allow the Village Fund to move forward to achieve the goal of becoming a national financial institution and a village and urban community development bank within 20 years. It will serve as an economic center for communities and localities based on the master plan, with answers for the village fund heirs, a public budget and a budget to operate, all undertaken in a sustainable manner.
One activity is a loan fund for degree studies, organized in collaboration with university partners, with immediate work opportunities for the successful graduates. Learning centers will be upgraded to act as public universities using curriculums and experience gained from in the grass-roots economy to benefit members of the fund and their heirs.
In the past, the government earmarked budgets under the Pracharat policy to tens of thousands of Village Funds in order to foster the grass-roots economy. In the future, it plans to allocate annual budgets and provide public welfare and assurances to a greater number of Village Funds which can demonstrate their readiness and strength.