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– by D+C / E+Z
D+C/E+Z 2013/12, p. 448, Barbara Mayrhofer: "Feeding the world"
As I am interested in rural development, agricultural economics and the environment all over the world, I was keen on reading this article. I was disappointed fast however. While environment-friendly, sustainable smallholder farms are vital for global food security, the author does not even acknowledge the relevance of some political and economic issues.
Yes, it matters that the government of Brazil adopted an agro-environmental policy, and the activities of an Institute for Sustainable Development in Ethiopia are welcome. But in view of increasing land grabbing by governments and multinational corporations all over the world, these things do not have a massive impact on the development of agriculture.
The goal is not to feed the people, but to export agricultural products, particularly in the forms of fuel and animal feed. Some 50 million hectares of land in Africa, Asia and Latin America are said to have been sold or leased in the years 2005 to 2009 alone.
Eva-Maria Bruchhaus, Cologne, Germany
An alternative to dams
D+C/E+Z 2013/12, p. 474 ff., Katja Dombrowski: "Dangerous dams"
Dams and power stations along rivers were an issue that kept me busy before I retired. It normally takes years for an infrastructure application to become true. In several years of testing along the Danube, electricity-generating buoys called "Mondl" have proven useful.
They do not depend on dams and can be installed according to power demand. These buoys rely on turbines and the river’s natural flow. They are also more efficient than ugly windmills.
Anton Padua, Aigen, Austria
D+C/E+Z 2013/11, p. 389, Hans Dembowski: Editorial, and p. 412 ff., Katja Dombrowski: "Modernity has arrived"
I found your editorial interesting. It is correct that Bismarck is the principal father of Germany’s social insurance system. He was right to start with health insurance, and he soon added the pension insurance. Unemployment benefits, however, were never part of his portfolio; they were only introduced in 1927.
As for Thailand, poor persons’ 30 baht fee (0,70 Euro) to be paid for seeing a doctor was discontinued by the generals who toppled Thaksin in a coup. Thaksin had designed the scheme with the support of a group of dedicated young physicians in the health ministry who were tired of the ministry’s conservative stuffiness.
As far as I know, the fee was not re-introduced. Free universal health coverage is still colloquially called the 30-baht-scheme however. It is indeed one of the greatest social-protection achievements in Thailand.
Competition from private-sector hospitals – attracting qualified medical personnel and often focusing on serving foreigners – is tough however, so the public system faces specific problems for which to address it needs more funding. The good news is that Thai governments have begun to rise to that challenge regardless of party affiliation.
As for example in Germany, another issue the fast ageing and increasingly individualistic society of Thailand must face, is establishing and financing a care economy, not only for the aged. To my knowledge, the government is in a process of drafting concepts.
Ultimately, introducing a care insurance and the necessary infrastructure will cost money. If the system is to do without subsidies and rely entirely on a capital stock provided by contributors, however, time is beginning
to run short.
Last but not least: Thailand’s voluntary pension schemes, which must not be confused with life insurances, are negligible in their social function and will, with some probability, ultimately not survive. They are the results of previous governments wanting to be seen to be doing something without really doing anything substantial.
Wolfgang Scholz, Permanent Mission of the Federal Republic of Germany, Genf
Katja Dombrowski’s response: To my knowledge, the 30-baht-scheme was modified after Thaksin fell, but not abolished. Yingluck re-started it. The system is certainly in force and one of the reasons for the support of the rural population for the ruling Pheu Thai party. I do not share the view that the scheme will struggle to keep going. Seeing the benefits I think Thailand will adhere to a universal health care system, though perhaps not exactly in its current form.