Academic journal article Rural Society

The Political Response to Rural Social and Economic Sustainability: A Cross-National Study of Thai and Australian Rural Policy, 1997-2007

Academic journal article Rural Society

The Political Response to Rural Social and Economic Sustainability: A Cross-National Study of Thai and Australian Rural Policy, 1997-2007

Article excerpt

During the period 1997-2007, rural constituents in both Thailand and Australia perceived themselves as causalities of neo-liberal economic policy which promoted the dominance of market forces, free trade and deregulation of services. This perception grew amongst rural constituents along with a view that a neoliberal policy framework was incompatible with rural communities reliant upon a narrow agriculturally based economy. Rural economies in both Australia and Thailand are less economically diverse (Ahmad & Isvilanonda, 2003) than their urban counterparts and their small populations with low incomes are often unattractive to businesses developing new markets for their products and services (Aslin & Russell, 2008). Without government incentives, sections of rural people believed that markets would not organically emerge in rural areas, nor would business be able to justify an economic investment into those areas (Chan, 2010). As more rural constituents began to identify problems with neo-liberalism and the widening social and economic gap between city and country, political parties in turn saw electoral currency in responding to those concerns. In particular, Australia's National Party and the Thai Rak Thai Party realised that they risked losing, or never gaining, electoral support in rural areas if they were unable to develop policies that would address market failure and ensure parity of economic and social opportunities for rural communities.

This cross-national study examines how the National Party and the Thai Rak Thai Party responded to a disillusioned electorate. It provides a brief survey of rural poverty in Thailand and Australia, illustrating a case for government intervention. The study then highlights the policy responses intended to address rural voter concerns and highlights particular programmes introduced by the National Party and the Thai Rak Thai Party.

LITERATURE REVIEW

To date, this cross-national study of the politics of Thai and Australian rural policy is the first of its kind. There is substantial literature examining the politics and development of rural policy in Thailand and Australia but each nation is treated separately. Of particular note is Land of discontent: The dynamics of change in rural and regional Australia (2000). Its editors, Pritchard and McManus compiled an edited collection of essays that examine rural politics and policy in Australia. However, the collection does not examine how policy or politics is informed by rural political culture nor the political currency rural electorates could control. The work does identify the factors impacting regional Australia, most notably globalisation, and therefore assists in placing rural Australia in the right context for further examination. Sustainability and change in rural Australia (Cocklin & Dibden, 2004) is another collection of essays on rural policy and shows how rural policy in Australia tends to be fragmented and highlights the need to take a more holistic approach to rural policy making taking into account social, economic and environmental factors when making policy rather than individual policy to address specific social, economic or environmental policy problems.

The collected essays provide a proper context to begin examining rural policy. An important contribution to the literature on Thai politics and rural policy is an analysis undertaken by Sutree Dangnet from Chulalongkorn University. Entitled, Populist policies in Thailand: A comparative study between Thaksin's and Democrat Party's (Dangnet, 2011) the work illustrates how Thaksin understood the voter mentality of the rural poor in Thailand but his greatest challenge was to break the 'patron-client' relationships that existed in rural areas and create a direct relationship between citizen and state. Other literature on rural policy in Thailand tends rightly to centre on poverty alleviation. Somporn Isvilanonda's (2011) paper Food security in Thailand: Status, rural poor vulnerability, and some policy options addresses concerns about the increase in food prices and the purchasing power of poor rural households. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.