Thailand, with major wealth inequality and relatively low economic growth, is at risk of missing the sustainable development boat.
Thailand ranks 100th in the 2016 Global Sustainability Competitiveness Index, and 153rd in natural capital due to water management problems, local pollution, falling biodiversity and the depletion of natural resources.
The Thai government is oblique in its Voluntary National Review of its progress. Regarding progress towards SDG №6, for example, the report reads: “Almost 100 percent of households have access to safe and affordable drinking water as well as sanitation facilities. However, challenge remains in remote rural areas where we are doubling our effort to address the situation.”
How can Thailand rebound? For Asia as a whole, a $1.7 trillion investment in four systems — food and agriculture, cities, energy and materials, and health and well-being — could unlock at least $5 trillion in business opportunities and generate 230 million jobs in Asian countries.
The Business and Sustainable Development Commission has proposed a framework for blended finance to fill the funding gap, lower risks and attract private investors.
Thailand has its own opportunities to leverage the Sustainable Development Goals as a framework for investment. As a start: Reshape urban housing via affordable accommodation. Implement energy efficient infrastructure. Develop electric transportation systems. Adopt sustainable agriculture and food production models. Reducing food waste. And shift to more inclusive, affordable healthcare models.
Underpinning any such transformation, say Khon Kaen University’s John Draper and Peerasit Kamnuansilpa in the Bangkok Post: the ability for Thais to engage in a social dialogue and be able to openly criticize their government’s inefficiency and corruption.