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.