Economic growth in Thailand is gaining momentum, with global growth and a recovery from severe drought buoying an expansion of GDP by 3.3 percent in the first quarter and 3.7 percent in the second quarter of 2017, exceeding market expectations. Economic growth for the full year 2017 is now projected around 3.5 percent, says a new World Bank report.
According to the August 2017 edition of the "Thailand Economic Monitor," 7.7 percent growth in the agricultural sector boosted incomes, and complemented the continued fiscal stimulus and an upturn in merchandise exports, which recorded its highest growth rate – 6.6 percent – in the last four years.
Although uncertainty in the global economy such as increased trade protectionism poses some risks to the growth momentum, Thailand’s economy is expected to expand further in 2018, to around 3.6 percent.
Even faster growth may be possible in the long-term, if policy reforms continue in education, services liberalization, and public infrastructure management, and the National Masterplan for the Digital Economy is fully carried out.
“The government of Thailand recognizes the significance of the digital economy and has launched various projects including high-speed internet access for all villages to setting up a government big data analytics center,” said Pichet Durongkaveroj, Minister of Digital Economy and Society.
“These projects aim to enhance connectivity, create new opportunities for people in communities, and harness data for better decision-making. These are examples of the Thai government’s vision to lay a solid foundation toward Thailand 4.0 through digital transformation encompassing Security, Infrastructure, Government, Manpower and, last but not least, Applications (SIGMA).”
The rise of the digital economy
The rise of the digital economy is continuing to transform Thailand. Mobile services are affordable and widely used. At the same time, technical digital skills can improve, as can the regulatory environment.
In 2016, Thailand ranked 82 out of 175 countries in the Telecommunications Development Sector (ITU-D) Information Communication Technology (ICT) Development Index, which measures access to, usage of, and skills related to ICT, and ranked 77 out of 193 countries in the United Nations E-Government Survey, which follows progress in the use of e-government to improve the delivery of public services.
“Thailand is known for its creativity, innovation and high-level services, and is taking important steps to help advance the digital economy and boost the country’s economic potential,” said Ulrich Zachau, World Bank Director for Thailand, Malaysia and Regional Partnerships.
“The pace of digital transformation will pick up speed if access to quality education also expands and provides more Thais the opportunity to join and benefit from the digital economy, meeting business needs and increasing family incomes.”
The report recommends that Thailand consider developing data centric digital strategies, with a focus on the growing importance of data as economic assets. It also recommends increased flexibility and agility in allocating bandwidth for diverse uses, and new technologies such as blockchain.
Thailand may also consider how institutions can track technological change better and become more responsive to digital opportunities and threats.