Khun Boonwara Sumano of TDRI makes some excellent points in her “Let’s make more of donations” article on CAF placing Thailand 2nd in ASEAN for charitable giving and 19th in the world. And interestingly, the massively generous Thai public donations of 75M THB account for 0.6% of Thailand’s GDP. Not outrageously different from the UN target of 0.7% of GNI that the United Nation has called for since 1971.
The UK is right to take pride in achieving this target last year with $20BN in DFID aid - the first major economy in the world to do so. And Sweden and Netherland’s efforts in not just achieving 0.7% but exceeding it are also rightfully a source of their national and EU pride.
And it’s to be hoped that the rather weak UN Secretary-General candidates and election at the moment will seek 0.7% from at least the G20 – those 20 nations, including Indonesia in ASEAN, that are the source of 90% of global trade.
It is a positive move though that Denmark’s Presidency of the UN has taken the lead on a more open and democratic election process that can only more rapidly result in an elected General Assembly.
And Khun Boonwara makes some eloquent points, not just on the Pracharat and 4G – unfortunately UK lagging behind USA with their 5G rollout in 2017, but on Thai education too.
As a founder of the Surin Charity School with the first school built in Isaan, I know that the generosity of the UK public knows no bounds. Nothing asked and everything given. Centred in Ramsgate but with customers and donations across UK and Benelux and US knows no bounds, with just its £1 donations the Surin Charity has rapidly achieved the $30,000 target in just c.3 years.
So now 50 Isaan schoolkids each year are given a world-class education.
The first school is a modern building for 50 schoolkids with satellite internet, land and lake purchased, and separate toilets for boys and girls. The latter a crucial point in DFID and Red Cross research for encouraging girls to remain in school. The budget was even maximised with a spot of road paving and some improvements to the local temple.
Surin Charity blog: http://surinvillagecharityschool.blogspot.co.uk/
Research for the Cameroon and Mali Surin Schools also highlighted the importance of school dinners. With one in four children in the world stunted, then a healthy meal is vital and often one of the key reasons cited for school attendance.
With my advertising hat on, I was rather appalled at KFC chicken citing their food as square meals ie healthy rather than a bucket of obesity and HFSS. While Lifebuoy in Ethiopia with the dynamic Unilever brands is a superb CSR on hand-washing and a key part of the Surin Schools philosophy.
I presume the hand-washing (tentacle-washing?) octopus on the Surin School toilet wall is called Ollie but perhaps it’s Oil or a similar Thai name.
~~Charity efforts across UK and Thailand~~
TOMS Shoes is also being considered, in my UK parliament MP role, as the official shoe of East Kent as perfect for back-to-school uniform and CSR with its astonishing 1-4-1 system of one pair of shoes donated for every pair purchased. And a massive manufacturing boost for Argentina’s fashion and retail economy.
While Revo sunglasses at the recent Margate UK Beach Volleyball final (shades of the Phuket Asian Beach Games) are active on glasses for the 39M blind globally.
And UK can do so much more in terms of cataract surgery eg the hospital ships of Operation Smile for cleft-palate surgery.
The Surin Charity can also make discretionary donations, in UK or Asia, for other charitable projects eg the hunt for the Northern Belle 12 US Presidential lifeboat medals in Margate of 1857 and the Broadstairs Waterloo Trail and Ramsgate’s Jorvik-Landings centre.
And Khun Boonwara highlights the IMD concerns of Thailand education overall slipping to 48th out of 61 nations. The concerns over English language teaching in Thailand are all the more important for Future Thailand given English is the official 2nd language of ASEAN.
And there are longstanding USA and Commonwealth links with Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, and nearby Papua New Guinea and Solomon islands plus Australia and New Zealand, and even Timor-Leste ASEAN accession plans by 2020.
And Cambodia was not that long ago seeking Commonwealth membership as the Empire connotations fade to just 16 small Overseas Territories. And Myanmar’s former UK resident Aung San and a new generation of Cambodian royals such as California’s Princess Soma highlight the importance of English in Asia in the 21st century.
And on the subject of Surin Schools toilets again, in India and Africa the UN’s Open Defecation programme for public and school toilets has stalled but if it’s an unpleasant subject it’s important for not just a clean and healthy countryside and water sources, but also the reduction of rape crimes and increasing the number of girls in school.
While the UN Women activity is far more active in Bangkok than London with calls for girls in sports such as muay thai.
One minor overdue feature of the first Surin School to be completed is some sports kit, and musical instruments, and eventually tweaking a ricefield into a football pitch and swimming pool.
But that is something of the gold-plating syndrome I mentioned earlier, as the funds may be best spent on other Isaan schools, as the schoolkids and teachers now have a terrific building and education kit.
The kids may all want to be Beckham or get kitted out in ManU but they might just have to make do with the nearby Thundercastles kit.
Certainly Sapa and Kontum and Can Tho in the Mekong delta in Vietnam, and Cambodia are overdue Surin Schools: the aim being to build 1,000 schools each year for $30M.
And some of Khun Boonwara’s other points on societal investment are profound in that the Surin Village School Charity doesn’t provide teachers as yet – the Surin School teachers are normal Thai government teachers. We just donated funds for the buildings and land. Thailand has rather excellent teachers and teacher training colleges so needs no support there other than exchange links with UK schools and universities.
But one aspect for the future will be helping fund teachers in Africa or India, and also helping fund specific education and careers courses beyond the normal curriculum that may be say fashion in Thailand and Cambodia, or agriculture and fisheries management in Vietnam or accounting and wider business and vocational studies.
Certainly Cambodia will face more difficult years with the UK’s DIFD ending its $20M aid, and bizarrely the World Bank reclassifying Cambodia as not an LDC - thus ending many other grants and paradoxically causing greater hardship.
I don’t know TDRI’s view on aid grants and ADB etc, but Cambodia as one of the few ASEAN nations, with Philippines, with barefoot street kids, or a lack of clean drinking water for the sake of a $100 well sounds like an LDC to me.
While Khun Boonwara’s other point on only 21.75% of Thai prisoners reoffending is astonishing: in the UK the figure is over 50% and something of a political scandal in government and the Third Sector not being able to reverse this important point for years and decades.
With my MP hat on to build better links between Thailand and UK this too could be an area for activity.
~Charities and Society~~
Indeed too often, for a G7 economy, the UK is rolling backwards on many of its hard-won successes of the last century or two: cholera sewers, unclean air, the malnutrition of obesity, food bank-soup kitchens, closure of school playing fields and sports centres, crime statistics spiralling, dirty hospitals and botched operations. All these social problems were identified and largely solved decades ago.
And Khun Boonwara is right to highlight the need for effective use of charitable funds. With DFID now achieving the huge $20BN target each year, the danger is a lack of rigour on how the funds are spent or gold-plating a project (we deliberately didn’t want to build a mega-Surin school but a village school for ease of future repair too), and the British aid industry problem of over-researching rather basic problems.
Forward-thinking think-tanks such as TDRI and Rockefeller Foundation in Thailand should be active in such scrutiny and results with the UNSDG30 just around the corner.
On minor example the WFP UN World Food Programme recently called for tenders for electronic welfare payments through a massively diverse range of nations: India, Solomons, Papua, Iran etc etc. Surely the funds spent in such a tender could have been best-placed through the respective nations’ central bank for a fraction of the cost and effort?
Massive Commonwealth reform beyond the Pacifc Group is also needed in Africa on gay and disabled rights and mega-slums, and the Caribbean death penalty – the last something of a minor issue given the UK is the Supreme Court for the Caribbean nations and there are now almost no executions. Just the cruel and unusual punishment of Death Row and the daily possibility of execution.
While Khun Worawan Chandoevwit, Khun Booonwara’s TDRI colleague makes an important point on the vagaries of official statistics with Thailand’s official maternal death rate being 5x lower than TDRI research.
A discrepancy of an extra 421 women dying in childbirth in Thailand each year.
Unfortunately neither Thailand nor UK is doing very well in that area with Japan at 5 deaths per 100,000 and Sweden 3 deaths. The UK is over double that figure at 7 deaths and Thailand officially 8.9 deaths or by the TDRI figures 45 deaths.
And the UK has this week called for better scrutiny of abortion clinics and cosmetic surgery clinics.
The mobile phone now may be the easiest and most effective and accurate way for data gathering in almost any nation now. Although again I’m not convinced that NGO and Public funds on 3D data visualisation and what-not aren’t actually a drain on solving UNSDG30 problems.
Such discrepancies may be as Khun Worawan cites women not giving birth in hospital or back street abortions or as unpalatably merely official lies and coverup for failure. Certainly we’ve seen such fraud and failure in UK in a range of public services: police crime statistics, rape detection and of course the notorious Infratil and Manston monitors and Thor mercury contamination, the Klity Creek of Kent, resulting in hundreds if not thousands of deaths and shortened lives.
And also the same Infratil directors of Fitzgerald, Clarke, Bogoievski etc still running Wellington Airport perhaps Asia’s most dangerous airport.
Future Thailand work with Future UK in the charitable and NGO and think-tank sectors must be crucial for both nations in improving and monitoring their development.
Tim Garbutt is a Director of Sincerity advertising agency opening offices across ASEAN and director of Surin School charity, the first school built in Isaan, and is standing for UK parliament for better relations between Thailand and UK. He refuses to wear espadrilles, TOMS or not. @timg33