Overview

  • Last updated September 2018

    Over the last four decades, Thailand has made remarkable progress in social and economic development, 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 economy grew at an average annual rate of 7.5% in the boom years of 1960 to 1996 and 5% following the Asian Financial Crisis during 1999-2005, creating millions of jobs that helped pull millions of people out of poverty. Gains along multiple dimensions of welfare have been impressive: more children are now getting more years of education, and virtually everyone is now covered by health insurance while other forms of social security have expanded. After average growth slowed to 3.5% over 2005-2015, with a dip to 2.3 % in 2014-2016, Thailand is now on the path to recovery.  Economic growth reached 4.8% in the first quarter of 2018 - the highest pace since 2013.

    Poverty declined substantially over the last 30 years from 67% in 1986 to 7.1% in 2015 during periods of high growth and rising agricultural prices. However, poverty and inequality continue to pose significant challenges because of faltering economic growth, falling agricultural prices, and ongoing droughts. As of 2014, over 80% of the country's 7.1 million poor live in rural areas. Moreover, an additional 6.7 million were living within 20% above the national poverty line and remain vulnerable to falling back into poverty. Poverty is expected to decline at a slower rate in rural areas, as agricultural prices are not expected to be high as in recent years. There are risks that growth could become less inclusive as growing disparities in household income and consumption can be seen across the lagging regions of Thailand.

    The rate of economic recovery and reigniting growth will depend on how fast Thailand can address structural constraints to growth while promoting inclusion. There are opportunities on the horizon, including improving the business regulatory environment, expanding trade through enhanced integration with the global economy, bolstering growth by implementing transformative public investments to crowd-in private capital, stimulating domestic consumption, and improving the quality of public services across the entire country. This will support a resumption of a higher, more balanced, growth path that eliminates poverty and boosts shared prosperity for all citizens.

    Thailand has laid out its long-term economic goals in its 20-Year National Strategy (2017-2036) for attaining developed country status through broad reforms. The reforms address economic stability, human capital, equal economic opportunities, environmental sustainability, competitiveness, and effective government bureaucracies.  Recent reforms include the implementation of large multi-year public infrastructure projects related to dual tracking of railways, regulatory reforms aimed at improving ease of doing business, setting up the State Enterprise Policy Committee to improve state-owned enterprise governance, the transfer of supervisory oversight of specialized financial institutions to the Bank of Thailand, the approval of progressive inheritance and property taxes, and the launch of the National Savings Fund, a retirement safety net for informal workers.

    Going forward, the sustained pace and quality of reforms, as well as sound implementation, will be crucial for translating the reform effort into the desired economic outcomes. Reversing the relative erosion of competitiveness, improving effectiveness of the public sector, and improving education and skills will be particularly important to take Thailand out from middle to high income status.

  • Last updated September 2018

    The partnership between the World Bank Group (WBG) and Thailand centers around knowledge sharing and policy and technical advisory services, complemented by the mobilization and support for private sector development financing. Thailand became a donor to the International Development Association, the World Bank Group’s institution that helps the world’s poorest countries, in 2014.

    WBG engagement in Thailand focuses on economic policy dialogue, business climate and investment, human capital and skills development, microfinance in rural areas, climate change, green growth, and community driven development approaches in the conflict-affected south of the country.

    The Thailand Systematic Country Diagnostic (SCD) "Getting Back on Track: Reviving Growth and Securing Prosperity for All", launched in March 2017, lays out opportunities for the country to restart its economic engine and renew growth that is inclusive, environmentally sustainable, and beneficial to all Thais.

    Building on the SCD, the World Bank Group has engaged with government, civil society, private sector, academia and other stakeholders to prepare a forthcoming Country Partnership Framework (CPF) as a vehicle for supporting Thailand in the achievement of its long-term development plans over the next few years. The CPF is scheduled to be discussed with the Board of Executive Directors this year.

  • Last updated September 2018

    The World Bank partners with Thailand in meeting challenges that affect people’s daily lives, including through grant funding delivered in collaboration with local organizations, international bodies, think tanks and academic institutions.

    For example, World Bank grants to support peacebuilding efforts in Thailand’s south and to promote climate action reflect close alignment between Thailand’s own national priorities and WBG global focus areas on climate action and fragile and conflict situations.  Implemented in 27 communities, the Bank’s grant-funded project in three southern provinces helped demonstrate the value of community development and capacity-building to foster understanding and improve the capacity of civil society to effectively engage with the state.

    One climate change project aims to promote cleaner production of air conditioners and foam products to help phase out harmful ozone-depleting global warming gases.  Thailand has also joined the World Bank Group’s Partnership for Market Readiness, a global climate change alliance of more than 30 nations, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption. Recently, Thailand received a grant of $3.6 million from the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility to manage and protect its forests.

    Under the first Reimbursable Advisory Services (RAS) Agreement, the World Bank supported the Office of Insurance Commission’s self-assessment of current insurance regulatory and supervisory practices and provided advice on consistency with international standards. This helped foster an environment for the insurance industry to efficiently expand and to better protect the poor against risks and loss. Other ongoing RAS work includes improving Thailand’s railway sector and enhancing the education sector’s public expenditure.

    In the context of strong knowledge-based partnership with Thailand, the World Bank publishes the bi-annual Thailand Economic Monitor (TEM), which reviews recent economic developments and provides an independent analysis of the near- and medium-term economic outlook.  The TEM also provides insights on growth-promoting policies such as advancing the digital economy and promoting innovation. Other examples of analytical work include the Thailand SCD, an assessment of the most pressing challenges and opportunities in ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity, the Wanted: Quality Education for All report, which highlights how improving education quality can increase labor force skills and productivity, and the Economic Inclusion of LGBTI Groups in Thailand report.

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LENDING

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

*Amounts include IBRD and IDA commitments



PHOTO GALLERY

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In Depth

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Economic Inclusion of LGBTI People

Thailand can become a leader in economic inclusion of LGBTI people, so everyone can share the country’s opportunities.

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Curry Promoting Peace

In Thailand’s conflict-affected deep south, community savings groups are helping to bring people together and build mutual trust.

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Closing the Health Gaps for the Elderly in Thailand

A study shows a significant drop in the elderly using Thai health services, improving measures to facilitate travel can help access.

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Uncovering Thailand’s Small School Challenge

Despite Thailand’s success in expanding education, research suggests that more needs to be done to maximize students' potential.

Additional Resources

Country Office Contacts

Bangkok
30th Floor, Siam Tower, 989 Rama 1 Road, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330
Tel: +662-686-8300
Fax: +662-686-8301
bsangarun@worldbank.org
Washington DC
1818 H Street, NW, Washington DC 20433
Tel: +1-202-473-4709
eastasiapacific@worldbank.org