27 Jul 2021
Presentation of Thailand’s 2021 Voluntary National Review
by H.E. Mr. Don Pramudwinai,
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs
at the 2021 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development
His Excellency Mr. Munir Akram, President of the ECOSOC,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This year’s VNR is taking place against a highly peculiar backdrop. One thing for certain is that the global economy is now facing one of its worst crises in history. The COVID-19 pandemic makes every country a patient. The disease has disrupted and decimated not only the economy, but people’s lives in so many different ways that translate into the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. Most of all, it has exposed the developmental and economic malice we know all too well—inequalities, which the tenth goal of the SDGs seeks to address.
Coupled with the tenacious pandemic, the 4th Industrial Revolution is knocking on our door. It is bringing forward, [to borrow from Aldous Huxley,] a “Brave New World” driven by leaping technology that has far reaching ramifications on our mode of production, and the way people live, work and communicate. The end result could be a utopia or a dystopia, depending on how Man changes and adapts with it.
Facing with these dual disruptive portals, not only drastic changes in our lifestyles is to become necessary, but also our economic and political modalities, social contract, and most important of all, our mindset. What is known today as the economic and developmental sustainable goals must not be just about to regain or even improve the status quo prior to the pandemic, but about a call to arms to create a better and more resilient future at the global scale. We need a modified implementation plan.
First and foremost, we need to think anew to effectively address the issue of economic inequalities that will become intensified post-pandemic and digital transformation. We live in the world in which inequality between and within countries has grown as a result of businesses’ race to the bottom, of working poverty among a vast proportion of the global workforce, and of the drive towards linear growth and maximization of profits that result in income polarization. Already, some economic models have been espoused as the way to heal the wounds from the pandemic. The Universal Basic Income (UBI), the Negative Income Tax (NIT), the Modern Money Theory (MMT), and the reverse KPI models are just few of the examples. What these theories thrive for is to balance income distribution across the board to remedy the root cause of poverty.
Politically, democracy needs to address the question of money politics, to rid the system of the so-called “one-dollar, one vote” system, so politics can be more inclusive, not divisive. Some political scientists opine that during the Covid-19 pandemic, governments will become bigger, not smaller, playing the role of insurer and investor of the last resort. Political imbalance or exclusivism therefore cannot be ignored. The world can no longer afford this wokeism. Nor can we afford the happy embrace of disinformation and misinformation that leads to alienation and discord.
Environmentally, there is a surge in the greening of the world movement. But the pandemic has taught us that closer international cooperation, not “our country first” is needed to make green a new gold.
Undeniably, the vitality of the 17 SDG agendas has been sacrosanct, becoming the bull’s eye target of our strenuous efforts over the past 5 years that saw Thailand as the ASEAN Coordinator for Sustainable Development. Now we see the need to augment our efforts with a new paradigm shift for the post-COVID world. At the core of this paradigm shift is the earnest drive towards a balance, not only between man and his multidimensional environment--wealth and technology included, but towards addressing the overall fragility and vulnerability of the human situation.
This new developmental paradigm is the Bio-Circular-Green economic modality or BCG. It is the intertwined relationship of three sets of economic models, or the three-in-one, that together represents the vital balance needed to reach the 2030 sustainable development goals. The BCG can be construed as the much needed balanced growth and accelerator of the SDGs implementation. It is a new approach that focuses on a non-linear growth, global and collective cooperation, resilience, the future of capitalism, densification of economic activity, industrial policy, and the way we handle technological advancements. BCG emphasizes the quintessential “balance of all things” approach that shifts from maximation mindset to optimization that will allow ample room for better wealth distribution, environmental revival, for inclusive economic growth, prosperity and safety for all.
Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past. The most important lesson from the Covid-19 pandemic is the fact that no man is an island, no one individual or country can be safe unless all others are safe. Against the realm of a paradigm shift, it is time to imagine our world anew and think of the BCG as the tenet of our modified implementation plan, and walk together towards the dawn of the new era on a firm and stable footing.