This is a fact; governments are simply too bogged down by the seemingly endless political emergencies which pop up anew every day to pay attention to the real issues that, if not attended to, can make or break our society.
Worse, these structural problems are often aggravated by governments' short-term political and economic gains. A case in point is the rice pledging policy and the harm it is causing to the environment.
The Pheu Thai-led government argues that buying rice directly from farmers for a much higher price than the market value can quickly improve the livelihoods of rice farmers and invigorate the economy with their improved purchasing power.
Critics, meanwhile, focus their attention on the mammoth costs of the programme which will exceed 200 billion baht this year. The scheme is not only financially unsustainable and rife with corruption, critics charge, but it also damages the country's rice exports and undermines the rice industry.
The harm caused by the rice pledging scheme to the environment has been largely ignored by both sides.
With the certainty that their paddy will earn 40% more than what the market would dictate, farmers have been boosting rice cultivation to cash in on the programme. This surge has increased the use of more toxic agricultural chemicals to raise yields and prospective income. The result is an aggravation of health and environmental problems caused by chemical herbicides, pesticides, fungicides and fertilisers.
After four decades of the so-called Green Revolution that promotes excessive use of farm chemicals, the country is now struggling with severe contamination of soil and waterways, chemical residues in the food chain, and mounting health problems that range from skin and respiratory problems to disruption of the nervous system, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer. Acute instances of poisoning have also cost lives.
It is easy to see why Thailand is in this situation. There are no efforts to keep the agro-farm chemical industry in line, nor are there import taxes or advertising controls for them. Last year, Thailand imported more than 160,000 tonnes of agricultural chemicals, worth around 22 billion baht. That's twice the amount of agro-farm chemicals imported in 2005.
There are more than 27,000 brands of these chemicals in this country. Compare that to Vietnam (1,743), Indonesia (1,158) and Malaysia (917). These agro-chemical companies are free to entice farmers with scant cautionary measures taken by the government.
Consequently, Thailand is ranked the world's fifth largest user of farm chemicals, according to the World Bank. Meanwhile, many highly dangerous farm chemicals which have been banned in other countries are still widely used here with little protest from the government.
The government needs to commit itself to cleaning up the environment, which will save public healthcare expenses as well as lives. The government aims to make Thailand "the kitchen of the world". Part of this policy should include promoting food safety and supporting organic farming. Ironically, the rice pledging programme has left the organic farming movement in disarray as farmers turn back to conventional rice farming in order to make higher returns.
What's the value of money without health and a stable environment? Reality has proven that short-term gains often prevail over long-term benefits. That's why it is inevitable that the rice pledging scheme will leave the country less healthy, environmentally degraded and drenched in even more toxic farm chemicals.