You can clearly see this in fashion, where Western, Japanese and Korean styles have followed in turn, slipping along the surface without really penetrating the world of immaterial values that build the “core” of the Thai soul. This national trait is born from a history, a plan, even a collective destiny - a country that has never been colonised, and never will be.
Howewer, 2016 will be crucial to return Thailand to stability and economic growth.
Opportunities will arise from government investments in infrastructure, from the return of foreign investment or not and from the ASEAN Economic Community born in January. With AEC (the equivalent of the European Union for SouthEast), Thailand’s impressive exporters are increasingly convinced of the advantages it will bring and the opportunities it will allow them to exploit.
Risks are linked to the growing level of household debt, to the lower pace of exports and to post-coup uncertainties. Double-digit growth will not return simply with order and stability. Re-building Thailand as a hub, re-balancing relationships between West and East – especially between US and China – will require a new strategy and vision.
Thailand in 10 points
- One generation. It is the time it took to Thailand to move from a low-income country to an upper-income country in the 80s and early 90s. Poverty has declined substantially over the last 30 years from 67% in 1986 to 11% in 2014
- 95% happy! This is one of the highest score in the world and the result of past strong economic growth, a relaxed mindset and a focus on today: tomorrow will take care of itself.
- 83% of GDP: this is the amount of the growing household debt, the highest with Malaysia in SEA
- 9 Millions Thais are above 60 years old. This is the highest proportion in SEA after Singapore. Thailand should become officially an aging country (number of people older than 60 exceed the number of children) in 2018.
- 65% (and declining). Exports account for around 65% of the GDP and have been declining in the past three years.
- 15% (and growing). Estimates vary on the contribution of tourism to GDP but everyone agrees that the number of visitors is growing, reaching nearly 30 million in 2015.
- 50-50 Thailand should reach an equal split between urban and rural population in 2016. The percentage of rural population has declined from 70% in 1990 to 51% in 2014.
- No 1, no 2, no 3. Internet use in Thailand has risen at the highest rate in the world, climbing 34 ranks in the latest global study conducted by the International Telecommunication Union. Thailand is now the third largest Facebook user and the second-largest Line user, after Japan.
- 49% of CEO in Thailand are women, far above the global ratio of 24 per cent of senior management roles filled by women. Thailand ranks first in the world on this criteria.
- 30 Baht. The 30-baht universal healthcare programme was implemented in 2002. It is seen as an important progress, but fast growing expenses are now reaching 4.6% of GDP fueling some strong debates.