The result of the Asean meeting is that we still await more resolute action for the real benefit of member countries. The goals will not be easy to attain, particularly the issue of a common currency. At least the region's leaders now know which goals they should pursue together and separately to overcome the current hardships.
Now that he has earned a big feather in his cap, Abhisit has to get down to the serious work of containing the damage done to the national economy by the external impact. With limited financial resources prompting the need to take more foreign loans, he has to move ahead with extreme care. The funds must be dispensed for optimum results and in a transparent manner.
Resolving the economic problem is the hard part. It involves the livelihoods of the people, particularly the poor in rural areas who are battered by hot weather, drought, household debt and no immediate means to relieve their plight.
The periodic gatherings of poor farmers at Government House will increase, together with more people with grievances following expected layoffs due to factory and business closures. They will not present a good scene for the man in charge.
The economic crisis has yet to bottom out, as more bad news proves the disheartening trend. What the Abhisit team is up against is formidable. Support from sympathetic people could be diluted by political attacks from the opposition red-shirted activists who want to see the collapse of the government.
The effort to solve the economic crisis will take time, and it will be difficult to handle many problems at the same time - like a troop commander facing numerous war fronts. With resolve,Abhisit can turn adversity into opportunity, by drawing a new strategy for national development instead of seeking only piecemeal solutions.
Discussions during the Asean summit included the food security issue. This could be seriously pursued, with Thailand already in a strong position due to its untapped resource potential. Together with major rice-growers like Vietnam and Burma, Asean can play a meaningful role in the rice trade, feeding many hungry stomachs.
For Thailand, it is an appropriate time to review our national development plan to determine whether we should rein in industrial projects in which we have no resources, capital or technology, and instead turn to agriculture, which has been our heritage for centuries.
This does not mean that we should produce tons more rice so that we can afford to buy cell phones and other electronic gadgets. The immediate objective is to provide rice and food for everybody in the land. Nobody should live without three meals a day.
We currently produce 30 per cent less rice in the same area compared with Vietnam and Taiwan. That means we still have the potential to increase output given proper methods in mechanised farming and marketing. This can be applied to other crops through the help of agro-industrial processing. The goal of becoming the world's kitchen is not that far-fetched.
We should review expensive projects like multi-million-baht steel plants, for which we have to import everything from abroad. Owners of steel mills are biting the bullet now that prices are sinking due to the low demand.
Yes, with our limited resources, we should abandon the idea of becoming the "Detroit of Asia". The auto giants in the US, Europe and Japan are begging for financial assistance from their governments. They are threatened by real bankruptcy. Surely we don't want to have an expensive junkyard littered with cars that can't be sold.
We produce enough food for all Thais and export the rest to the world. If the market is oversupplied, we can give food to those millions of hungry mouths in impoverished countries. With full stomachs and some spare cash, people are sensible and optimistic.
The first task in that direction is to restore our devastated forest resources and watershed areas through massive reforestation and water storage of all kinds. With mechanised contract farming and food to subdue hunger, we can then see our new future.
If he wants to work towards this end, Abhisit should recruit sensible minds with realistic ideas to work out the details.