Key Facts: Thailand

by World Grain Staff
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Capital: Bangkok

Population: 65,905,410

Religions: Buddhist 94.6%, Muslim 4.6%, Christian 0.7%, other 0.1% (2000 census).

Location: Southeastern Asia, bordering the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, southeast of Burma.

Government: Constitutional monarchy. Chief of state: King Phumiphon Adunyadet (since June 9, 1946); Head of government: Prime Minister Abhisit Wetchachiwa (since Dec. 17, 2008).

Economy: With a well-developed infrastructure, a free-enterprise economy and generally pro-investment policies, Thailand was one of East Asia’s best performers from 2002-04, averaging more than 6% annual real GDP growth. However, overall economic growth has fallen sharply — averaging 4.9% from 2005 to 2007 — as persistent political crisis stalled infrastructure megaprojects, eroded investor and consumer confidence and damaged the country’s international image. The growth rate fell to 2.6% in 2008. Exports were the key economic driver as foreign investment and consumer demand stalled. Export growth from January 2005 to November 2008 averaged 17.5% annually. Business uncertainty escalated, however, following the September 2006 coup when the military-installed government imposed capital controls and considered far-reaching changes to foreign investment rules and other business legislation. Although controversial capital controls have since been lifted and business rules largely remain unchanged, investor sentiment has not recovered. Moreover, the 2008 global financial crisis further darkened Thailand’s economic horizon. Continued political uncertainty will hamper resumption of infrastructure mega-projects.

GDP per capita: $8,400 (2008 est.); inflation: 5.5% (2008 est.); unemployment 1.4% (2008 est.).

Currency: Thai Baht (THB). 32.9 Bahts equal 1 U.S. dollar (Jan. 15, 2010).

Exports: $175.3 billion (2008 est.): textiles and footwear, fishery products, rice, rubber, jewelry, automobiles, computers and electrical appliances.

Imports: $157.3 billion (2008 est.): capital goods, intermediate goods and raw materials, consumer goods, fuels.

Major crops/agricultural products: Rice, cassava (tapioca), rubber, corn, sugarcane, coconuts, soybeans.

Agriculture: 11.6% of GDP and 42.6% of the labor force.

Internet: Code. .th; 1.231 million (2009) hosts and 16.1 million (2008) users.