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"I feel that there must be some convergence among nations on the idea of what the primary objective of development and progress should be - something Gross National Happiness seeks to bring about".
H.M. Jigme Khesar Wangchuck
|GNH Movement Project: towards a new ‘PARADIGM FOR CHANGE?” - Summary Report of the 1st Workshop 'Today's Crisis. Hidden Opportunities for Change'
|Tuesday 26 August 2008 9.30-14.00 at Room 502
SASIN Graduate Institute of Business Administration (host)
1. Ajarn Sulak Sivaraksa (Engaged Spirituality)
2. Ajarn Jon Ungpakorn (NGO sector and Media)
3. Senator Rosana Tositrakul (Politics)
4. Khun Prida Tiasuwan (Business sector)
Prof. Surat Horachaikul (Deputy Dean, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University)
1. Academics: 12
2. Government Sector: 7
3. Business Sector: 10
4. Non Governmental Organisation: 8
5. Media: 2
6. Students: 5
7. GNH Project Team and co-workers: 9
Kittiratt Na-Ranong, Deputy Director for Academic Affairs SASIN Graduate Institute of Business Administration at Chulalongkorn University, welcomed the participants on behalf of the host organization.
SASIN’s main mission is to train managers for the business sector. However, it’s recognised these days that for-profit organisations and non- profit organisations both need good management. Consequently SASIN gives more attention to the science of non-profit organisation management. From our experiences, we found out that to manage a non-profit organisation is much more challenging than a for- profit organisation.
Professor Dipak C. Jain, Dean of the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, said that to manage a non-profit organisation implies two main purposes. The first one is to take care of society and the second one is to get attention and support and be able to sustain operations. It’s different from the profit organisations that only have one purpose which is to maximise profit. This is why non-profit organisations are tougher to manage.
At SASIN we are well aware of our role in serving society. For that reason, we do our best to producing personnel with good skills and leadership capacities to develop the quality of life in our society or: to advance happiness. So we are well aware of the great importance of producing managers for non-profit organisations.
We are pleased to host this forum because the topic of this forum matches our own focus right now.
Ajarn Apichai Puntasen, Dean, Faculty of Management Science, Ubon Rajathanee University, gave an introduction in his capacity of academic supervisor of the Sufficiency Economy Programme of Thailand Research Fund (TRF). The GNH Movement Project receives a development grant under the Sufficiency Economy Programme of TRF.
These days, Gross National Happiness (GNH) has been mentioned a lot in the foreign media. Once the flaws in Gross Domestic Production (GDP) were found “happiness” has become more important. One thing that is challenging about happiness is the definition. In the Western nations, one could say, it means obtaining things that make one happy; but in Thailand we understand the word happiness as being free from any worries or troubles. It’s very important to develop a clear definition of “happiness”. The concept of GNH has gained a lot of popularity in the West because in their societies, they have met all the prosperity in material sense but they have found out that money doesn’t bring them happiness. For this reason, we should learn more about alternative economies which will be discussed more in this project and also in the Buddhist Economics conference in Ubon Rajathani University, 5-7 December 2008.
Khun Wallapa van Willenswaard for the GNH Project team
GNH originates from Bhutan where people are not as materialistic as in developed countries. Our initial assumption is that the meaning of happiness is the ability to overcome any obstacles in life and to give life direction to the benefit of all.
Developing a country like Bhutan toward modernization might bring economic growth to the country but on the other hand the happiness of local people might be taken away. In this light we have to investigate our own situation here in Thailand in comparison with other countries. During the GNH3 conference we organized last year in Thailand, professor Kusago from Japan confronted us with the case study of Minamata City in Japan. The local people in Minamata suffered from a serious illness, called the Minamata disease, because of industrialisation in their town. The problem reached to the point of change, of radical transformation, by social movement through many difficulties. But they succeeded in changing the course. If we look to Thailand we have our own industrialised town as well, Map Ta Put, which has the same problems as Minamata. The question is what we can do to change the course, come back to happiness. The Japan Foundation has helped to organize exchanges between Map Ta Put and Minamata.
Video shown before the dialogue starts
Local people in Rayong and Map Ta Put are trying to resist the extreme industrialisation policy in their home-town. The public policy never had the consent of local people. However, protesting, it seems, can only buy time because they are fighting transnational organisations with big capital, which have a lack of human face and exist for maximizing profit. The State must see the importance in the participation from civil society. Local people too must be active in participating in the policy making process. Is Gross National Happiness relevant in this situation?
Ajarn Surat Horachaikul opened the forum by welcoming all participants and he introduced the speakers.
Ajarn Jon Ungpakorn
He took a critical look at what GNH exactly stands for and was not sure whether he agreed with it. So he spoke about how changes in society occur.
He wondered whether GNH is similar to Sufficiency Economy because he is not a big fan of Sufficiency Economy as it is often wrongly promoted. It tells people who don’t have enough, to be satisfied with what they have by rich people who have more than enough. He hoped that GNH is not promoted like that. However, of course he doesn’t agree with over-consumption or development that leads society to insufficiency.
From working within civil society, he found out that many rules and regulations in this world are unfair. A very good example for this is HIV/AIDS. It is not a medical problem but it is a social problem. We can see that people in some countries have bad habits against good health but they have some system in their society that provides them with good medical care. For example, people with HIV/AIDS in Britain, which has a good medical service, can live up to 75 years whilst infected people in Africa are able to live after they get infected for only 5 years. Thanks to better information infected people in Thailand have the tendency to live longer now. They have an organisation to take care of them. And they fought for Compulsory Licensing (CL) which gave people with HIV access to cheap medical treatment. These are examples of different levels of rights to access to medical treatment in different societies.
When Thailand used CL for HIV/AIDS treatment, which is a rightful approach according to the WTO, the government of the USA accused Thailand of stealing their property rights and knowledge. We live in a world where knowledge is a property. Even operation techniques have property rights. These things are the inequalities in our world and these inequalities are being stabilised within the framework of a free market. Therefore, change in the society towards equality is required and it has to be achieved through the struggle of the people to claim their rights.
These are what we have to fight for:
1. Welfare state: There must be a reform to make a complete welfare state happen, which is a welfare that will take care of people from their birth to death, such as, education, health, commodity and employment. The welfare system must be connected from federal level to local level.
2. A progressive tax rate: Creating a welfare system needs a fair form of taxation by taxing people with high incomes progressively, as well as heritage tax, property tax.
3. The right to gather as a political group and local people’s rights: Democracy doesn’t come from a single election but from people’s participation in politics. Local people’s rights must be above any other rights in managing natural resources and in adopting public policies that affect the majority in society, such as, public utilities, media. People must have rights to gather as trade unions or to exercise civil disobedience.
Senator Rosana Tositrakul
When we want to create opportunities for rescuing the world from the crisis, we can’t fragment into separated sectors - business, politics, civil society -, because everything relates to each other. However, the political sector should give the people authority to manage all the resources and distribute it to people who are in need in the society equally. It’s just like the role of women in a family-life: women are genuine economists. The root of the word economist applies to women because they are the ones who manage resources in the family, they distribute resources to each member of the family to be equally happy. For example, in a clinic that had a handicapped-kids massage service, sometimes we could see that the mother brought her normal kids there as well but she gave more attention to her handicapped child. For that reason, equality doesn’t mean distributing everything to everyone in an equal amount but it means distributing resources to the one that is the most in need.
The former president of Philippines, Ramon Magsaysay, said that “people who have less, the state has to give more”. The purpose of politics must be distributing the resources to the people who have less so they benefit from the resources the most. Our former Prime Minister, Pridi Banomyong said that politics must bring satisfaction, happiness, to the people. When we want to provide a healthy foundation to our economics, we must have democracy in politics, economy and culture. Politics in Thailand nowadays is more about dividing the power and using the power to benefit specific groups of people. That’s why we can always see money being used in order to get political power. Fake populism like free buses, free water and electricity are the signs that tell us that politicians don’t really want to distribute the resources.
All political ideologies from democracy to socialism these days have been overshadowed by capitalism. Capitalism makes you believe that consuming is your happiness, but once you consume too much the environment will be damaged and the consequences will come back to us in the end.
When the industrial sector thinks that polluting the environment is for their gain all the pollution they make will come back to us. Global warming is the sign. We never think of changing our consuming habit, we only think of inventing new technologies to solve our pollution issues. That is why our lives are separated from our Earth system and we only think about ourselves.
Scandinavian countries are a very interesting case, because they have a welfare system that is integrated with a free economy. In Finland they have a committee for the future to plan for good and clean Finland decades ahead.
However, Rosana thought that we shouldn’t only plan for our own country we have to think ahead for the whole world. Thinking only about our country is still a fragmentation.
If we can bridge Buddhism with politics, economy and culture we can reach the happiness of the whole society. Living in the right way brings happiness to everyone. Ajarn Buddhadasa said that “politics is about morality” if politics doesn’t have morality it will lead to crisis and conflict of all against all. Politics must be changed by the movement of society, the people’s movement. We must have democracy in our politics, and furthermore democracy in our economy is very important. Big gaps between rich and poor will not lead to a very good democracy.
Politicians should not use what belongs to the public for their own benefit. Public property that the Thai government distributed by concession to businesses has always been in a monopolistic way, with lack of public participation in policy making. This surely is for someone’s benefit and the result is people’s disadvantage in what belongs to the public.
Thai politicians never think about the national interest. Most of the time, they spend thinking about their own interests. However, we can’t give up our hope, even if we can’t count on our politicians we can still count on our own people. Politics must be changed by people. People have to control politicians to change by checking on them all the time. That is how the nation can achieve happiness.
What can we do to stimulate people to participate in political changes? Changes don’t have to occur from everyone at the same time. It could be from a critical mass which means changes that start from a little point or a small number of people that affect the majority of society.
Khun Prida Tiasuwan
Gross National Happiness addresses a diversity of factors in society.
Firstly, on the GDP side, politicians promoting populist policies support GDP to be used as the major indicator of economic growth in the capitalist world. This is because GDP is an easy indicator that can be measured in a very short time and it’s perfect for promoting politicians’ accomplishments just in time for their next election. However, GDP growth doesn’t count the effect it has on the society, such as, pollution of the environment, prostitution and AIDS, inequality in income distribution. GDP doesn’t tell you about the living standards or happiness of the people in society at all.
Secondly, on the GNH side, it’s a new dimension that is emerging and will be used in the future. This is because it can tell you the gross happiness of people and it is a much more complete indicator than GDP. We can use this indicator to force politicians to focus more on the quality of life of all people rather than on economical data.
From the entire current environment crisis, we can see that we humans are destroying the environment by our over-consuming habits. The damages we do to our environment will come back to us in the end. We will need 2 or 3 more worlds to provide us enough resources for our over-consumption. GDP is the indicator that encourages people to consume more and more while, GNH will be the indicator that reminds people of environmental problems and to consume less.
It is very difficult for Thailand to have a good figure of GDP, in comparison to others, today or in the future for many reasons. This is why we should place more importance on the GNH figure which we can use to compete with others. Instead of only developing our economic growth, we should give our attention more to developing our people’s happiness.
Ajarn Sulak Sivaraksa
GNH is different from GDP like black and white. GDP is an idea from the USA, the greatest power in politics and economy, while GNH is an idea from such a small country as Bhutan where most of the people are poor. However, the Bhutan case provides better answers to challenges in politics, the economy, society and environment than the USA.
John Cobb, a Christian, said that the leaders of religions are still blind to the American Empire even though the USA has the greatest control in the world economically, politically, militarily, and educationally. If any countries don’t give in to them, they will use all their power to intimidate those countries. This outdated empire cooperates with transnational corporations to control this world. The only argument we can use to fight with the USA is their lack of legitimacy.
In fighting against empire we have to use religious power and legitimate power just like how the Dalai Lama of Tibet has been fighting against the occupation of Tibet by China for 40 years. The Dalai Lama said that “we shouldn’t hate China, we have to love the Chinese”. Peace or GNH can occur only when we have peace inside our mind.
Pridi Banomyong had a long dialogue with Ajarn Buddhadasa and agreed that Thailand must build an economy system that gives people happiness and decreases the gap between rich and poor people. Capitalism only teaches people about how “to have”; on the other hand religions teach people how”to be”.
In order to pave the way to GNH we have to build a network of friends, together with the network of people who are exploited. We have to make those people come up and fight for their rights and their community. Example of groups or organisations that fight for changes in society are Buddhists in India (most of them outcast people, Dalits), and the Future World Council. And within the UN now, we have a charter called the Earth Charter, which mainly is about respecting the environment, animals and humans. These examples tell us that this world is not that cruel.
We still have some groups of people that are fighting for our better future
Ajarn Surat Horachaikul
Gave an overview of the speakers’ presentations and added some comments:
1. Regarding Ajarn Jon’s remark that most labour parties today have distorted from what Ajarn Jon has in his mind about the welfare state. Even the Labour Party in U.K. seems to be driven by the market economy only. Are there still political parties that really stand for the ideas as expressed by Ajarn Jon?
2. He added to what senator Rosana said about the word ‘economy’: its roots are in the word “eco” which in Greek means household. Also the word “ecology” is rooted in “eco” but these days both words are manipulated into the opposite side. In his perception what the senator said was deeply interlinked with Ajarn Jon’s statements.
3. He added furthermore, by referring to a book of Martha Nussbaum, that people should think more in a universal dimension not only just in a national dimension. This is because the crisis in our world extends beyond national boundaries. The whole world have to come together to find genuine solutions. But we face the situation where politicians have no sympathy, do not care about income distribution and lack ethics and morality. The question is how GNH can contribute to finding responses to this situation.
4. He commented that it would be helpful if Ajarn Sulak could channel through the GNH project more information about global initiatives like “the Earth Charter”, the World Future Council and the “think tank” at Schumacher College in U.K..
Opinions, Suggestions and Questions
Khun Charoenwit Saneaha
He expresses that he is a dedicated fan of the philosophy of Efficiency Economy. He comments on the example of Minamata, that he thinks that the way the Japanese have solved their pollution problem is by exporting their factories to Thailand and if we want to solve this problem we might just end up doing the same thing as Japan. When we pursue happiness it could turn into becoming a happiness addiction. In the same way as with other big ideas this might still be ineffective in dealing with problems. In contrast, we have to look to the misery side as well. We have to consider what causes misery and what can we do to get rid of it. Once misery has gone, happiness will come. If GNH measures things in figures, like GDP, it won’t be able to solve any problems either. To make GNH effective we have to change the 3 systems: political system, economic system and moral system.
He believes that Efficiency Economy is the most appropriate answer because it is based on Buddhism. It represents morality. In motivating towards Sufficiency Economy quietly among the grass roots people most of them will meet happiness in the end.
Ajarn Kaemthong Indaratna
GNH should not be the single indicator but it should be a ground breaking concept and in the beginning should be used along with GDP. To make GNH grow we have to realize it at an individual level, community level and international level. In the individual level we already have the Buddhist way to do that. At the community level Ajarn Jon Ungpakorn has proposed many ways to realize GNH. But how can we realize GNH at an international, global, level? How can we make the rich countries understand GNH?
Student from Chulalongkorn University
How can we raise awareness on GHN among the public? How can we communicate with Youth about GNH? How can we give evidence that present capitalism makes people suffer?
Ajarn Ekkachai Chutipong
He proposed that the indicators of GNH should target politics, economy and education because these three are the factors that motivate the world’s civilisation and help this world out of crisis.
Doctor Ugrid Militangkul
How can we make people accept our alternative movement? How can we make them realise that money doesn’t lead them to happiness? How can we expand our network to reaching out to public awareness? Should we use media or mapping to search more precisely for people with potential to meet in this forum to exchange their opinions?
Khun Amara Puangchompu
Told the story of her experience in Rayong which used to be an agricultural town, full of happy people? Now industrialisation has created high pollution and taken away happiness from the local people.
Sharing Opinions and Responses from Speakers
Senator Rosana Tositrakul
There is an attempt to make a new index to use along with GDP which is HPI or Happy Planet Index. HPI’s indicators are standard of living, life expectancy and life satisfaction however divided by ecological foot print. The political sector has a lot of power in changing things but it will be the last sector to change.
Mahatma Gandhi said we have to look beyond mass production and create more production by the masses. The Government has to create conditions for grass roots people to work happily, opportunities to have their small businesses like street vendors. In this way, people can have dignity in being a part of the production process so they can find happiness beyond consumption.
Ajarn Jon Ungpakorn
If GNH can lead to equality in every dimension of society, such as, consumption or dignity it would be a very wholesome force. Measuring the success of GNH must be from the achievement of it, not only from the concept. We have to admit that to make such a concept come true, it has to be fought peacefully. It has to be fought to create a balance of power that allows small people being able to fight for themselves. We can’t hope for powerful people to have morality and to take care of small people. Middle class people like us have to fight with the vulnerable people. To raise attention in rich countries on GNH will follow the same logic. Small countries have to unite and fight. We can’t expect rich countries to give us some sympathy. We can’t hope for powerful people to have morality. What we should do is to build an effective check and balance system.
If we really believe in GNH we have to give our priority to the welfare state because it helps people to have enough to live and fulfil their basic needs. Community rights are another area that we have to give priority. Employers can start from letting their employees become the shareholders too so workers can also benefit from their hard work.
Khun Prida Tiasuwan
There is a growing part of our personnel who become co-owners in our enterprise.
In order to realize GNH we need some paradigm change that happiness must be more prominent than GDP. A paradigm change can only occur from the bottom up. Developing organisations and civil society must gather to prepare this change. We need to make rich countries participate in the paradigm change as well.
The problem is how can we make paradigm change happen? We can’t rest our hopes on politicians that only think 4 years ahead. These problems need vision and long term planning and people who can take care of such plans aren’t politicians but the NGO sector. We have to help create more international NGO’s so we can have world level motivation in making change in the world stage.
Ajarn Sulak Sivaraksa
He agreed with Ajarn Jon in fighting peacefully. He wanted Ajarn Jon to keep in mind that we should not fight with hatred in our mind. To fight peacefully we must have peace in our mind in the first place.
In conclusion, he raised some questions about the media in Thailand. How can we make our media more sophisticated and educational, in order to educate our people? The media must relay the truth, not only propaganda.
Ajarn Surichai Wung’aeo formulated his closing remarks.
Exploring ideas about “alternative economy” like what we have done today in our discussion can be considered a very good start. Moreover, about the crisis, we have to keep in mind that it is not only a crisis of macro economy but a crisis within ourselves as well. In solving any crisis, we should start from this understanding.
Finally, we have about 5 more workshops and he would like to invite all the participants today to come and join the workshops in the future as well. This is for the reason that the participants are from several sectors of society with different visions to share which will be very useful in our future workshops.