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flag Thailand Thailand: Economic and Political Outline

In this page: Economic Indicators | Foreign Trade in Figures | Sources of General Economic Information | Political Outline


Economic Indicators

Thailand is the second largest economy (after Indonesia) and the 4th richest nation in Southeast Asia in terms of per capita GDP, after Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia and serves as an economic anchor for its developing neighbor countries. After recording a strong and dynamic growth in 2010, in the fall of 2011 the country suffered from the worst floods in half a century: the disaster struck its industrial heartland and agricultural sector and hindered economic growth.

After hovering near zero in 2011 (0.1%), growth rebounded in 2012 (5.6%) thanks to the reconstruction efforts. In 2013, it was lower than expected (1.9%), mainly because of the political turmoil in the country towards the end of the year. It is expected to strenghten in 2014 (3-4%). The main drivers of the economy are public investments, particularly in basic infrastructure, export promotion and support for tourism projects.

The year 2013 was again marked by political conflict, with anti-government protests seeking to push for the resignation of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the sister of the former Prime Minister Thaksin, who had been accused of corruption and remains in exile in Dubai. This has created pressure on tourism, private sector investment, state budgetary expenditure and the confidence index of domestic consumers.

The 2014 budget continues in the line of fiscal discipline; its objective is to reduce the budget deficit to 2 % of GDP. It aims to set national strategies for Thailand and prepare the country for the creation of The ASEAN Community, as well as resolve recurring economic and social problems. The government has established four national strategies to move the country forward: growth and competitiveness, inclusive growth, green growth, and good governance. In preparation for the ASEAN Community launch in 2015, the government strives to improve the quality of education and develop language skills and stimulate the use of foreign labor to prepare for the future changes both inside and outside the country. Infrastructure development is also a priority. To cope with the problem of competitiveness, the country should invest in R&D and education. It also needs to address critical issues such as the role of the monarchy, the role of the army, the independence of the judiciary and the treason laws which are considered disproportionate and draconian.

Significant progress has been made in terms of development and poverty has declined over the last few decades. Despite the country undergoing a crisis, unemployment rate remains low (0.7%). 

Main Indicators 20112012201320142015 (e)
GDP (billions USD) 345.67365.97387.25e380.49397.48
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change)
GDP per Capita (USD) 5,1155,3905e5,5505,772
General Government Balance (in % of GDP) -0.7-1.0-0.0-1.1e-1.2
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 41.745.445.9e47.9e48.4
Inflation Rate (%)
Unemployment Rate (% of the Labor Force)
Current Account (billions USD) 8.89-1.47-2.4510.938.36
Current Account (in % of GDP) 2.6-0.4-

Source: IMF - World Economic Outlook Database , Last Available Data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

Main Sectors of Industry

The Thai economy is heavily based on agriculture, which contributes around 10% of the GDP and employs more than 40% of the active population. The country is one of the leading producers and exporters of rice and also has rubber, sugar, corn, jute, cotton and tobacco as major crops. Fishing is an important activity as Thailand is a major exporter of farmed shrimp. However, agriculture's contribution to the GDP has relatively declined, while the exports of goods and services has increased.

The manufacturing sector accounts for over 40% of the GDP and is well diversified. The main Thai industries are electronics, steel and automotive. Thailand is an assembly hub for international car brands. Electrical components and appliances, computers, cement production, furniture and plastic products are also important sectors. The textile sector employs around 25% of the active population but is no longer as dynamic as tourism which has become the main source of foreign exchange.

The tertiary sector, including tourism and financial services, contributes to 46.5% of the GDP.

Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 39.6 20.9 39.4
Value Added (in % of GDP) 12.0 42.5 45.5
Value Added (Annual % Change) 1.4 0.3 3.4

Source: World Bank - Last Available Data.

Monetary Indicators 20092010201120122013
Thailand Baht (THB) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 USD 34.2931.6930.4931.0830.73

Source: World Bank - Last Available Data.


Learn more about Market Analyses about Thailand on, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.

Indicator of Economic Freedom


The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labor freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.

Moderately Free
World Rank:
Regional Rank:

Distribution of Economic freedom in the world
Source: 2014 Index of Economic freedom, Heritage Foundation


Business environment ranking


The business rankings model measures the quality or attractiveness of the business environment in the 82 countries covered by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Country Forecast reports. It examines ten separate criteria or categories, covering the political environment, the macroeconomic environment, market opportunities, policy towards free enterprise and competition, policy towards foreign investment, foreign trade and exchange controls, taxes, financing, the labour market and infrastructure.

World Rank:

Source: The Economist - Business Environment Rankings 2014-2018


Country Risk

See the country risk analysis provided by Coface.


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Foreign Trade in Figures

Thailand is an emerging economy, very dependent on exports, which account for more than two-thirds of the GDP. Thailand is very open to international trade (trade represented on average almost 145% of the GDP for 2010-2012) and is an active member of ASEAN.

The country's three main export partners are: the United States, Japan and China. Main export commodities are electric and electronic equipment, machinery, vehicles, rubber, and plastics. The main import partners are: Japan, ASEAN, China, the EU and the United States. Thailand mainly imports electric and electronic equipment, mineral fuels and oil, machinery, iron and steel, and plastics. Thailand's trade deficit deepened in 2013: from 20.75 billion USD in 2012 to 22.9 billion USD in 2013. This was an effect of a drop in exports (0.31) and a rise in imports (0.29%).

Foreign Trade Indicators 20092010201120122013
Imports of Goods (million USD) 133,668182,921228,787249,988250,723
Exports of Goods (million USD) 152,422193,306222,576229,519228,530
Imports of Services (million USD) 37,54144,77451,96552,85554,857
Exports of Services (million USD) 29,67734,08641,28049,30658,597
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -21.521.513.76.22.3
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -12.514.
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 57.863.972.473.870.3
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 68.471.376.975.073.6
Trade Balance (million USD) 32,60729,66716,9916,0316,436
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) 26,24918,9646,4282,60010,158
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 126.2135.1149.4148.8143.8

Source: WTO - World Trade Organization ; World Bank , Last Available Data


Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
China 11.9%
United States 10.1%
Japan 9.7%
Hong Kong 5.8%
Malaysia 5.7%
See More Countries 56.8%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
Japan 16.4%
China 15.0%
United Arab Emirates 6.9%
United States 5.9%
Malaysia 5.3%
See More Countries 50.5%

Source: Comtrade, Last Available Data


Main Products

- bn USD of products exported in 2013
Automatic data processing machines and units...Automatic data processing machines and units thereof; magnetic or optical readers, machines for transcribing data onto data media in coded form and machines for processing such data, n.e.s. 5.9%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 5.0%
Motor vehicles for the transport of goods, incl....Motor vehicles for the transport of goods, incl. chassis with engine and cab 4.6%
Natural rubber, balata, gutta-percha, guayule,...Natural rubber, balata, gutta-percha, guayule, chicle and similar natural gums, in primary forms or in plates, sheets or strip 3.6%
Electronic integrated circuits and microassembliesElectronic integrated circuits and microassemblies 3.2%
See More Products 77.6%
- bn USD of products imported in 2013
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 15.5%
Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought...Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form 6.0%
Electronic integrated circuits and microassembliesElectronic integrated circuits and microassemblies 3.7%
Parts and accessories for tractors, motor vehicles...Parts and accessories for tractors, motor vehicles for the transport of ten or more persons, motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, motor vehicles for the transport of goods and special purpose motor vehicles of heading 8701 to 8705, n.e.s. 3.1%
Petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbonsPetroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons 2.7%
See More Products 68.9%

Source: Comtrade, Last Available Data

See More Products
More imports (Intracen Data)
More exports (Intracen Data)

Main Services

- bn USD of services exported in 2012
- bn USD of services imported in 2012

Source: Comtrade, Last Available Data

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Sources of General Economic Information

Ministry of Finance
Statistical Office
National Statistic Office
Central Bank
Bank of Thailand
Stock Exchange
The Stock Exchange of Thailand
Search Engines
Thai Info
Economic Portals
Thai Chamber of Commerce

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Political Outline

Executive Power
Governed by a constitutional monarchy, Thailand has a bicameral legislature system with a House of Representatives and a Senate. Thailand’s 76 provinces each administered by an appointed Governor are divided into districts, sub-districts (tambons) and villages.
The King is the chief of the state and the monarch is hereditary. he has little direct power but commands enormous popular respect and moral authority which he has used on occasion to resolve political crises that have threatened national stability. Following national elections for the lower house of the parliament, the leader of the party that can organize a majority coalition is appointed as Prime Minister by the King for a four-year term. Prime Minister is the head of the government and holds all the executive powers including implementation of the law in the country and running the day-to-day affairs. The cabinet is appointed by the King on recommendation of the Prime Minister.
Legislative Power
The legislature in Thailand is bicameral. The parliament called National Assembly consists of: Senate (the upper house) having 200 seats with its members elected by popular vote to serve six-year terms and the House of Representatives (the lower house) having 500 seats with its members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms. The executive branch of government is directly or indirectly dependent on the support of the parliament, often expressed through a vote of confidence. Government cannot veto the acts passed by the parliament. When not under military rule, the people of Thailand enjoy considerable political rights. The coup of September 2006 has taken place after 15 years of civilian and democratically-elected governments. The 2006 interim constitution was later surpassed by the permanent constitution on 24 August 2007. Martial law was partially revoked in January 2007. The ban on political activities was lifted in July 2007 following the 30 May dissolution of the Thai Rak Thai party. The new constitution has been approved by a referendum on 19 August, which led to a return to democratic elections on 23 December 2007.
Main Political Parties
Thailand has a multi-party system. The major political parties in the country are:
- TRT (Thai Rak Thai Party) – has no clear ideological platform, but is commonly described as a ‘populist’ party;
- DP (Democratic Party) – the oldest party in the country, opposes any kind of military dictatorship, pro-democracy;
- TNP (Thai Nation Party) – a conservative nationalist party;
- Great People's Party – advocates left-wing ideology.
Current Political Leaders
King: Bhumibol Adulyadej (since June 1946) – hereditary
Prime Minister: PRAYUT Chan-ocha (since August 2014)- Military
Next Election Dates
House of Representatives: Year 2015

Indicator of Freedom of the Press


The world rankings, published annually, measures the violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire sent to partner organizations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and activists of human rights, including the main criteria - 44 in total - to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).

World Rank:
5 places up compared to 2013

Source: Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2014, Reporters Without Borders


Indicator of Political Freedom


The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.

Partly Free
Political Freedom:

Map of freedom 2014
Source: Freedom House


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Last Updates: December 2014