Democracy's promise to the poor

The Nation - Saturday, November 15, 2003

Democracy is not like money. It can't lift people out poverty just by being inserted into their pockets.

Nevertheless, democracy does help relieve poverty, because it provides about their living conditions and ask for redress.

King Prajadhipok's Institute is organizing a seminar, "Democracy and Poverty Relief", as part of its V Congress to raise public awareness about democracy's role in transforming society. The seminar starts today and runs until November 17 at the institute.

"Democracy is not a banknote that can make people become rich immediately," says the institute's Secretary General Noranit Setabutr.

"But through democracy, people have a chance to voice their concerns and points of view on any projects that are likely to cause problems in their lives. Society becomes transparent. Any development projects can be corrected or scrutinized before they cause deep trouble. And with that, poverty in the country will be reduced."

The experiences of both foreign and local communities in making democracy a path to poverty relief will be discussed by speakers ranging from grass-roots community leaders to scholars and governmental officials. Among them are noted historian Dr. Nithi Eaosriwong, prominent village headman Vibul Khemchalerm, MR Akin Rabibhadana, lecturer Atthachak Sattayanuraksa, Mr. Chakarot Chitrabong and Dr. Suwanna Satha-anant.

Topics include poverty eradication, Thailand's survival, economic distribution, society and human security and management of natural resources and the environment.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will preside and speak on the government's policies for ending poverty.

The chairman of the International Peace Foundation's advisory board, Prince Alfred of Liechtenstein will also speak.

The seminar will be accompanied by an exhibition of student paintings on the topic "How Democracy Helps Eradicate Poverty".