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Thailand Economy 1999

    Economy—overview: After months of speculative pressure on the Thai baht, the government decided to float the currency in July 1997, the symbolic beginning of the country's current economic crisis. The crisis—which began in the country's financial sector—has spread throughout the economy. After years of rapid economic growth averaging 9% earlier this decade, the Thai economy contracted 0.4% in 1997 and shrunk another 8.5% in 1998. In the years before the crisis, Thailand ran persistent current account deficits. With the depreciation of the Thai baht and the collapse of domestic demand, however, imports have fallen off sharply—by more than 33%—and Thailand posted a trade surplus of approximately $12 billion in 1998. Foreign investment for new projects, the long-time catalyst of Thailand's economic growth, has also slowed. The CHUAN government has closely adhered to the economic recovery program prescribed by the IMF. The cooperation afforded Thailand stability in the value of its currency in the second half of 1998 and helped replenish foreign reserves. Tough measures—including passage of adequate bankruptcy and foreclosure legislation as well as privatization of state-owned companies and recapitalization of the financial sector—remain undone. Bangkok is also trying to establish a social safety net for those displaced by the current economic crisis and is working to increase the quality of Thailand's labor force.

    GDP: purchasing power parity—$369 billion (1998 est.)

    GDP—real growth rate: -8.5% (1998 est.)

    GDP—per capita: purchasing power parity—$6,100 (1998 est.)

    GDP—composition by sector:
    agriculture: 12%
    industry: 39%
    services: 49% (1997 est.)

    Population below poverty line: 13.1% (1992 est.)

    Household income or consumption by percentage share:
    lowest 10%: 2.5%
    highest 10%: 37.1% (1992)

    Inflation rate (consumer prices): 4.3% (1998 est.)

    Labor force: 32.6 million (1997 est.)

    Labor force—by occupation: agriculture 54%, industry 15%, services (including government) 31% (1996 est.)

    Unemployment rate: 4.5% (1998 est.)

    revenues: $24 billion
    expenditures: $25 billion, including capital expenditures of $8 billion (FY96/97)

    Industries: tourism; textiles and garments, agricultural processing, beverages, tobacco, cement, light manufacturing, such as jewelry; electric appliances and components, computers and parts, integrated circuits, furniture, plastics; world's second-largest tungsten producer and third-largest tin producer

    Industrial production growth rate: -10% (1998)

    Electricity—production: 82 billion kWh (1996)

    Electricity—production by source:
    fossil fuel: 91.46%
    hydro: 8.54%
    nuclear: 0%
    other: 0% (1996)

    Electricity—consumption: 82.561 billion kWh (1996)

    Electricity—exports: 79 million kWh (1996)

    Electricity—imports: 640 million kWh (1996)

    Agriculture—products: rice, cassava (tapioca), rubber, corn, sugarcane, coconuts, soybeans

    Exports: $51.6 billion (f.o.b., 1997)

    Exports—commodities: manufactures 82% (computers and parts 16%), agricultural products and fisheries 14% (1997)

    Exports—partners: US 19.6%, Japan 14.9%, Singapore 11%, Hong Kong 5.7%, Malaysia 4.3%, UK 3.7% (1997)

    Imports: $73.5 billion (c.i.f., 1996)

    Imports—commodities: capital goods 50%, intermediate goods and raw materials 22%, consumer goods 10.2%, fuels 8.7% (1997)

    Imports—partners: Japan 25.6%, US 13.9%, Singapore 5%, Taiwan 4.6%, Germany 4.5%, Malaysia 4.1% (1997)

    Debt—external: $90 billion (1997)

    Economic aid—recipient: $1.732 billion (1995)

    Currency: 1 baht (B) = 100 satang

    Exchange rates: baht (B) per US$1—36.624 (January 1999), 41.359 (1998), 31.364 (1997), 25.343 (1996), 24.915 (1995), 25.150 (1994)

    Fiscal year: 1 October—30 September

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    Revised 1-Mar-99
    Copyright © 1999 Photius Coutsoukis (all rights reserved)