Thailand is being touted as a development success story. Sustained growth and poverty reduction are the reasons for the incredible progress. Poverty in Thailand was reduced from 21 percent in 2000 to 12.6 percent in 2012 and 7.5 percent in 2015. Between 1999-2005 the economy grew annually by five percent, which created jobs and improved education.
While Thailand has become a middle-income country and an active development partner, the country’s growth has slowed to only 3.5 percent between 2005-2015. Despite this, Thailand is making great progress towards meeting their Millennium Development Goals.
Thailand’s economic success is not shared with all citizens. Poverty in Thailand mainly affects those living in rural areas. There are 7.1 million people living in poverty and 80 percent of those live in rural areas. The inequality is not limited to those living in rural areas. Some areas and ethnic groups are affected more than others, particularly in the Northeast, North and Deep South.
Poverty and inequality create a challenge for a country with a faltering GDP. While the World Bank predicts that growth will increase 3.2 percent in 2017, it has grown by less than 2.5 percent annually between 2014-2016.
A 20-year strategic plan to end poverty in Thailand and help attain developed country status includes reforms to stabilize the economy and provide equal economic opportunities, environmental stability, and effective government bureaucracies. The country has already implemented large-scale public infrastructure projects, renewable energy tariffs, strengthened the renewable energy market, identified opportunities for energy efficiency improvement, diversified fuel sources and created a state enterprise policy committee. On a more economical level, the country has transferred supervisory oversight of specialized financial institutions to the Bank of Thailand, created a National Savings Fund and created a retirement safety net for workers.
Thailand may achieve its desired goals and see an end to poverty in the country if it can sustain growth and implement additional sound reforms.
– Mary Barringer