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Thailand’s economic recovery trails behind comparable nations

Thailand economic Bangkok one 3 April 2024

Thailand’s economy encountered a notable slowdown, expanding by just 1.9% last year, a stark contrast to the growth rates exhibited by its Southeast Asian counterparts.

In 2023, Thailand’s GDP grew by 1.9%, falling behind countries like Indonesia and Vietnam, which recorded growth rates of 5.5% and 5.6%, respectively. This sluggish performance is primarily attributed to sluggish demand recovery in major export markets and a global shift towards more advanced services that demand higher local skills and capabilities.

Expectations for this year anticipate a slight improvement in Thailand’s GDP, projecting a growth of 2.6%. However, significant challenges persist, including the country’s high household debt levels, which amount to nearly 91% of GDP, with a considerable portion consisting of high-interest informal loans.

Thailand’s economic stagnation can be traced back to various factors, including the delayed rebound in demand from key export markets and a global trend towards value-added services requiring enhanced local skills. The nation’s struggle with low productivity and inadequate education has led to what analysts label as the “middle-income trap,” where a substantial portion of the workforce remains entrenched in low-wage, low-skilled positions.

In comparison, countries like Indonesia are actively adapting to the evolving landscape of globalization and bolstering their competitive edge. Thai economic policymakers and the Bank of Thailand are tasked with addressing these structural challenges to prevent further lagging behind their rapidly progressing regional peers.

To overcome these hurdles and propel economic growth, Thailand must prioritize upgrading its workforce and fostering innovation within local enterprises. The country’s economic future hinges on its ability to navigate the middle-income trap and implement reforms that fuel growth and creativity.

Amidst these complexities, hopes are pinned on Thailand achieving a 2.6% GDP growth this year, driven by anticipated improvements in tourism, robust exports, and sustained private consumption.

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