The Asian Financial Crisis and the Thai NGO Sector: Surviving the Crisis One Community At A Time
Holewa, Laura Meagan
In 1997 Thailand experienced one of the worst financial crises imaginable. Overnight the economy changed from one of the fastest growing in the world to utter chaos. The currency was devalued, jobs were lost and the effects of the crisis quickly spread from one sector of society to another. Even though the problems had been created by the wealthiest in society the social impact was the most devastating for the poor. One of the most important questions after the crash was how to mitigate the negative affects of the crisis. At the time of the crash Thailand had a vibrant community of nongovernmental organizations, grassroots groups, and other civil society groups that served the marginalized sections of society in a multitude of ways. The NGO movement had been growing in Thailand for many years, but by its nature, it was an unorganized movement because there are so many different groups serving different purposes. The NGO community did not have the capability to act in a coordinated manner in response to the crisis, though many NGOs worked individually to cushion the blow of the crisis. The Thai government did not have an adequate social security system before the crisis so when the crisis hit the government was unprepared to deal with its social costs. Recognizing this, the Thai government developed a unique strategy to mitigate social costs with some government programs while at the same time developing the capabilities of civil society. The Thai government chose to see the crisis as an opportunity for carrying out the social reforms of the 8th National Economic and Social Development Plan implemented just months before the crisis. The original thesis of this research paper was that the NGO community filled in the gaps from where the government was forced to cut spending on social programs and in that way helped mitigate the negative aspects of the crisis for Thai society. In fact, the government was the key player in mobilizing and coordinating the NOD community by providing funds and organization, in conjunction with other international organizations, to support those NGOs and other civil society groups doing work to improve communities. It was the government, civil society and the moral fiber of the Thai people that together made it possible for many people to survive the crisis. This paper is divided into four sections. The first section examines the history of the economic boom that led to the crisis. The second section examines the history of the NGO movement and its roots in the social uprising of the 1970s. The third section is focused on the events of the economic crash and the structural adjustment loans Thailand received from the International Monetary Fund. The fourth section examines how the crisis was dealt with by society and how the government and NOD community responded to the needs of the people.
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