Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

Little boy of blue 

Posted: January 22, 2017 in Thailand
Tags: , , , ,

Through twisted narrow lanes and swaying shadows, a boy wanders deeper into a Bangkok slum.

My thoughts.

Community-based programs, NGOs and privately-run social initiatives are actively involved in areas where Thailand military government support is not sufficient. Often the junta-led “government” projects are cosmetic, and fail to provide much-need policy changes that would greatly improve quality of life.

However efforts are still being made in forging partnerships between NGOs and the government. It’s a fact that the role of an NGO is important especially in the rural parts of the country where poverty incidence is high.

One of my concerns is rural micro-finance programs implemented by NGOs and provincial/federal authorities. Such programs provide valuable services to the rural poor although I have yet to see indicators of accountability and transparency in the financial aspects of these programs. There’s also the issue of questionable deliverables (unachievable expectations, low capacity) and the late dispersement of monies to the stakeholders.

Core problems of social programming are often related to the lack of participation in democratic decision-making. Perhaps some NGOs and officials do not want to see an empowered marginalized community to make informed decisions and lobby for their rights. In this case, from the absence of their rights to a transparent process of not just the budget allocation but also to the conceptualization and project monitoring.

I once mentioned to someone from a reputable local “poverty eradication” NGO that its within their interest to encourage communities to be part and parcel of problem-solving in the programs. But rather than consider and consult the stakeholders about this issue, the officer was rather defensive about the state of affairs. Apparently foreigners do not understand ‘Thainess’ and as such have no business expressing my views. It could also be that he and his organization prefer the comfort zone of prescribing solutions to the communities, rather than consultation.

Anyway as the national economy plunges, its difficult to not come to the conclusion that corruption will increase and that marginalized communities will be extremely vulnerability; as flawed systems, pride and human greed override the original objective of community-service.

Economic growth can help reduce poverty through an increase in household income, providing earnings to obtain the minimum basic needs. That being said, equality and other rights-based concerns must be tackled by all parties to enable a reduction of poverty. I’m not so sure whether the junta realise this, or maybe they just don’t care. I wonder.

 

Social welfare, or the mechanism that claims to enable basic rights to the country’s citizens, seems to be invisible and silent nowadays. Bangkok’s poverty rate, at least what’s visible on the streets, has increased with the decline in formal livelihood and made worse by the dwindling tourism.

It appears that the ruling elites in the junta are clueless on what is needed to jump-start Thailand’s economy.

Floods, landslides in Malaysia, from Peninsula to Borneo. Over 200,000 people were displaced, torn from their homes by raging nature.

Natural disasters leaving considerable impact on lives, land and livelihood. Whether federal or state governments, the institutions need to share data about natural disasters and poverty. Poorer communities are left marginalized in post-flood Malaysia, particularly rural populations. Repetitive floods, the incredible downpour from monsoon and the continued ignorance of policy makers, increase the vulnerability of the poor. As a result, communities are unable to break the cycle of poverty.

Its crucial for civil society and government agencies to collaborate with affected communities in order to reduce the socio-economic impact. Increased disaster risks due to climate change are also expected to stimulate poverty. Are we taking note of these issues and planning ahead for poverty-reduction and disaster preparedness? Or are we still pointing the finger, or shamelessly indulging with photo-ops when delivering conditional aid to those who have lost their homes, land and income?

Rural communities in Malaysia live in the plantations, fishing villages, farms, settlements and indigenous Orang Asli tribes. Obviously there is a lack of coordinated national effort in relief work, and much of the aid distribution comes from volunteers, among them Dapur Jalanan, which is remarkable but the question is why does it seem that the federal and state governments are unprepared for intervention, much less rebuilding initiatives?

Wandering in unpopular spots in Bangkok. So much to see, this laid back part of the city, without the extreme capitalistic monuments and the intimidating presence of shopping malls. So many places to explore. What’s categorised by the middle-class as the poor sections of Bangkok, I find the almost-simplistic life comforting. People here tend to work in small industries and home-based enterprises, from printing shops, sundry, eateries to the street market.

Often this part of the city reminds me of Phnom Penh or many parts of Jakarta. Its common to meet workers from other Thai provinces temporarily living, working here. They rent small rooms for the weekday, and frequently return back to their villages and towns during the weekend. Nearly all are from the working class, with very little evidence of the lower-middle-class residing in the narrow flats.

Strong winds, dreadfully cold temperature. Night time, in Bangkok. Its the “winter” season in most parts of Thailand. How bizarre, and how odd. That word, “winter” in this region. The chills forces me to walk further, past the narrow alleys and the dim lights almost hovering. No fog, but expecting the early morning mist much later.

Where are the others? The homeless. In this wretchedness one calls a city. They’re not dead, they couldn’t be dead, at least I hope not. The intense cold offers no comfort to those without shelter, even for the outreach worker who struggles to find them. The streets where they normally sleep at nights, they are not seen.

Easy now, there’s usually an explanation. For some reason, there’s logic behind this… Or not.

City hall commands the streets of Bangkok. Responsible for the city, them with their office monuments covered by walls and warmth. Yet they, these pesky officials, appear not to be interested in the struggles, nor radiate that caring aura that some people boast about. Responsibility. Aye, there’s no logic to that, nowadays.

Hallucination. The grand illusion of middle class empathy for those living on the streets. More like phantoms, shifting shadows, from one corner to another. I’ve seen through them, the supposedly mystery buried in the filth, on the streets and in the many polluted canals.

A question mark that lies in the night, now, with those howling whipping winds. Bangkok, a shrine of more troubles, in the months ahead. Could we expect the high cost of wishing for better days?

state of beggarism