Last update: October 2014
Thailand became an upper-middle income economy in 2011. Notwithstanding political uncertainty and volatility since 1970, Thailand has made remarkable progress in social and economic issues, moving from a low income country to an upper-income country in less than a generation. As such, Thailand has been one of the widely cited development success stories, with sustained strong growth and impressive poverty reduction, particularly in the 1980s.
Thailand's high economic growth at 8-9% per year during the late 1980s and early 1990s was interrupted by the "Asian Crisis" of 1997-1998. Since then, economic growth has been moderate, with period of robust growth, such as at around 5% from 2002 to 2007, followed by the fall-out from the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, the flood in 2011, and the impact of political tensions and uncertainty in 2010 and again in 2013-2014. Overall, economic growth in Thailand, while still significant, has lagged that in its developing East Asian neighbors in recent years. Growth is currently projected to be around 1.5% for 2014.
Thailand is likely to meet most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on an aggregate basis. 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 over 80% of the country's 7.3 million poor living in rural areas (as of 2013). 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.