Academic journal article Journal of Third World Studies

Human Resource Development (HRD) Theory and Thailand's Sufficiency Economy Concept and Its "OTOP" Program

Academic journal article Journal of Third World Studies

Human Resource Development (HRD) Theory and Thailand's Sufficiency Economy Concept and Its "OTOP" Program

Article excerpt


The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) developed an integrated-thematic approach to human resource development (HRD). It thereby provided a capstone to an intellectual legacy that began with ideas put forth by T.W. Shultz and other early human capital theorists. However, many modern theorists remain skeptical about the approach, believing that it is too abstract to be implemented in a meaningful way. With this point in mind, it is useful to consider whether two elements of Thailand's overall national economic development strategy are examples of successful adaptation and implementation of UNESCAP's capstone to HRD theory. One element is the country's Sufficiency Economy concept and the second is its One Tambon One Product (OTOP) program.

The three-fold purpose herein is first to outline the development of HRD theory beginning with the work of Schultz and extending to the important contributions of scholars such as Paul Streeten and culminating in the addition to the literature provided by UNESCAP. The second purpose is to evaluate whether the core contents of the Sufficiency Economy concept are consistent with the thematic element of what the Commission contributed to HRD theory. The third is to analyze Thailand's unique OTOP program in order to determine whether its design and implementation are consistent with the UNESCAP approach and to evaluate whether Thailand's unique experience offers a guide to other countries' development strategy.


The current status of human resource development (HRD) theory is the combined product of both individual scholars and institutional theorists including the staffs of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and UNESCAP. On the private scholar side, the human capital concept derived from Schultz's pioneering writing that noted that the process of economic growth and development is importantly a function of the investment in, and accumulation of, productive capital. He argued that capital investment must be put into a broad context that includes efforts to increase the health, skills and education of the country's work force and to assure that workers gain access to physical capital in order to maximize the impact of their work on a nation's economic growth. (1)

Schultz and other economists argued that when the rate of growth in the country's output exceeds the rate of increase in the inputs of labor and capital, the residual increase in output can be attributed in part to intangible improvements in human qualities. Based upon Schultz's work, other scholars have found that the intangibles include improvements in work force discipline, moving labor into more productive occupations and locations and applying existing knowledge or discovering and applying new knowledge to production processes. Gerald Meier added this key observation: the success of a human development strategy depends on whether people are not deprived of what they require in order to be productive; that is, they have access to productive capital and industrial technology. (2)

Building upon Schultz's work, private scholars Paul Streeten and T.N. Srinivasasan summarized the development community's thinking about the need to frame an HRD strategy in a way that would optimally contribute to national economic and social development. Their work drew attention to five points: (a) human resource development is both a means and ends; and (b) means and ends are positively connected because human development leads to increased productivity, thus providing more goods with which to promote further national development. In addition, (c) in the longer term, human development tends to result in declining population growth due to more information and less pressing felt-needs for children; (d) development within an HRD context can improve environmental protection due to an improved understanding of, and appreciation for, sustainable development. …

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