Country Office Contacts

30th Floor, Siam Tower, 989 Rama 1 Road, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330
Tel: +66 2686 8300

Washington DC

1818 H Street, NW, Washington DC 20433
Tel: +1 202-473-4709

This page in:

Thailand Overview

Last update: April 2014

Thailand became an upper-middle income economy in 2011. Notwithstanding political uncertainty and volatility, Thailand has made great progress in social and economic issues. As such, Thailand has been one of the great development success stories, with sustained strong growth and impressive poverty reduction.

The "Asian Crisis" of 1997-1998 interrupted high economic growth in the late 1980 and early 1990s in Thailand, at 8-9% per year, and robust growth in the years preceding the global financial crisis, at around 5% during 2002-2007.

Thailand's economic growth slowed in 2009 because of global economic conditions and political uncertainty and again, in 2011, because of the devastating floods. Now Thailand's economic activity is gradually returning to normal. Growth is projected to be around 4.0% in 2014.

Thailand continues to make progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It is likely to meet most of the MDGs on an aggregate basis. The maternal mortality and under-five mortality rates have been greatly reduced and more than 97% of the population, both in the urban and rural areas, now have access to clean water and sanitation. At the same time, there are concerns about environmental sustainability. 

Poverty in Thailand is primarily a rural phenomenon, with 88% of the country's 5.4 million poor living in rural areas. Some regions—particularly the North and Northeast—and some ethnic groups lag greatly behind others, and the benefits of economic success have not been shared equally, especially between Bangkok, Thailand’s largest urban area, and the rest of the country. Income inequality and lack of equal opportunities have persisted. Income inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient, has fallen in recent years, but stays consistently high above 0.45.

Last update: April 2014

The relationship between Thailand and the World Bank Group has changed from borrower-lender to knowledge partners, and from a mostly public sector focus to incorporate a growing private sector focus. The partnership has included work on a range of issues:

  • Public financial management, effective decentralization, and  governance and accountability;

  • Service Delivery and Social Protection; and

  • Infrastructure and Climate Change.

Broadly, the World Bank Group seeks to address Thailand’s main development challenges by combining knowledge and analysis, and investment and advisory services: (i) to broaden Thailand’s economic competitiveness and global integration by supporting Thailand’s skilled industries and supporting the development of a broad-based and efficient physical and financial infrastructure; (ii) to promote inclusive economic growth and in particular growth and access to opportunity in the rural areas through investment s in microfinance platforms; and (iii) to support the government’s efforts to place Thailand on a low-carbon growth path through investments in renewable and energy efficient industries.

The WBG’s private sector arm, the International Financial Corporation (IFC) supports investments in  renewable energy and in south-south development projects. Given Thailand’s strong manufacturing base and export oriented economic growth model, IFC continues to support supply chain manufacturing in Thailand through investments in Thai operations of foreign manufacturing conglomerates.

Last update: April 2014

Thailand has made an impressive transition from a low income country in the 1980s to an upper-middle income country by 2011. Poverty in Thailand has fallen steadily since the late 1980s. Over the last decade, poverty has been reduced from its recent peak of 42.6% (2000) to about 13.2% (2011). In the poorest rural northeast region of Thailand, the number of impoverished households dropped from 3.4% (1996) to less than 1.3% (2006-2009).

World Bank Group analytical work (investment climate surveys, Doing Business reports, the quarterly Thailand Economic Monitor and a range of health and education policy reports) have supported Thailand’s evidence-based, growth-promoting policies.

Thailand introduced its Universal Health Coverage Scheme in 2001 and has largely achieved its goal of providing access to affordable health care for all. Thailand’s poorest families have benefited from a declining trend in the incidence of ‘catastrophic health expenditures’ or out-of-pocket payments exceeding 10% of total household consumption expenditures. The incidence dropped from 6.8% (1996) to 2.8% (2008) among the poorest people in the program.

The World Bank Group works with the Government and the Ministry of Health in delivering analytic and advisory work identifying key challenges to the continuing sustainability of universal healthcare coverage and how to address these challenges, which include inequality and rising cost pressures.

Following the successful implementation of the World Bank’s $300 million flood relief program for Thailand in 2012, the IFC is continuing discussions with local banks to structure and offer climate change mitigation facilities and also potentially structured short term finance products.

Among the Southeast Asian countries, Thailand has implemented renewable energy tariffs, strengthening the renewable energy market (pdf) and allowing wind and solar investments to well exceed original targets. Thailand has also been making efforts to promote renewable energy in the heating, power, and transport sectors to diversify its fuel sources and enhance energy security. To identify opportunities for energy efficiency improvement, legislation in Thailand goes further than in neighboring countries in requiring large energy users to undertake energy audits and to submit energy efficiency action plans. The World Bank Group sees the energy intensity of the economy as one of the key challenges in the country, underscoring the importance of WBG support for investments in renewable energy across Thailand. IFC Advisory Services have also supported the Ministry of Energy in promoting renewable energy from the solar and wind sector.


Thailand: Commitments by Fiscal Year (in millions of dollars)*

*Amounts include IBRD and IDA commitments

Around The Bank Group

Find out what the Bank Group's branches are doing in Thailand.