POVERTY REDUCTION PHILOSOPHY

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In governments’ policy documents relating to poverty reduction, three

perceived dimensions of poverty itself, and three dimensions of a strategy

for reducing it, can be identifi ed. These dimensions are ‘opportunity’,

‘security’ and ‘community’. Opportunity refers to the capacity to participate

in economically rewarding activity. When opportunity is improving, average

incomes of poor people and average levels of their economic well-being,

narrowly conceived, will increase. Security refers to the existence of

mechanisms to maintain well-being in the face of unexpected short-term

reductions in incomes. Improved security means reducing over time the

variance of the economic well-being of poor people. Community refers to

social capital. Community can be a means to achievement of the other two

dimensions of poverty reduction, but it is also an end in itself because the

extent to which it is present – the extent to which people feel themselves

part of a larger social whole – affects the well-being people enjoy, given the

levels of the other two dimensions.

Thai thinking on poverty reduction has some distinctive features. Central

to these is the desire to use decentralized local community approaches,

which minimize the dependency on the central government. At its present

stage of development, Thailand does not wish to develop a developed

country welfare state apparatus. The fear is that this could lead to perceived

permanent entitlements and waste and may not serve the best long-term

interests of the society, even including those who are presently poor. The

intention is to utilize those features of the existing social infrastructure to

assist the poor and not to undermine them.

The meaning of the above three categories may be illustrated through

stylized examples of government programs and policies directed towards

them.

Opportunity

• promoting economic growth of a quality consistent with economic

advancement of the poor

The macroeconomic recovery program will have effects on the poor by

affecting their opportunities to participate in the market economy and on

what terms.

• targeting the poor through government programs which build human

capital, including education and health care

Programs are in place for improving the targeting of education and public

health spending towards the poor. We analyze the effectiveness of these

programs in this chapter.

• overcoming social exclusion

The government is making attempts to overcome the social isolation of some

of the poorest groups. This category overlaps strongly with ‘Community’,

above.

• raising agricultural productivity

This item refers to the provision of support services to agricultural

smallholders to raise productivity and enhance diversifi cation.