Situated in Southeast of Asia, Thailand has experienced a number of years of economic growth prior to the military coup of 2006 that would stall any growth in the immediate future. While the coup did not have much of an effect on the day-to-day operations of the country, there are concerns about the date of the promised democratic elections. There is pent up demand with regard to foreign investment, but the actually materialization of these plans and programs are uncertain at the moment.
The main focal point of the country continues to be Bangkok, which has an official population in the region of 8 million according to 2009 Wikipedia (although independent estimates put this closer to 14 million). The city is one of the main tourist attractions of the world and a common stopping over point for Europeans making the long journey to Australia. Tourism is fast becoming a massive part of the Thai economy, opening up foreigners to the beauty and mystique of this ancient country.
The Thai immigration system is fairly simple for Expats wishing to live in Thailand. While it is possible to arrive in the country without a visa, it is recommended that visas are arranged prior to travel especially if you are looking to stay more than 40 days. It is also recommended that you do not overstay and ensure that your visa is updated if your stay is extended. There are situations where if you are found to have an invalid visa you may be detained in an Immigration Detention Center – until your case is heard and you are deported. The timing for this is all up in the air.
Thailand is a unique state in the history of the Far East, having been one of the few countries never to be colonized by any of the European super powers. This was due to a deep sense of national pride together with great leaders of the past, which served the population as well as could be expected.
The country itself is dominated by a range of Thai speaking ethnic groups who have all had an impact upon the culture of the nation, although the Central Thai’s have the largest impact. The Central Thai dialect has become common throughout the whole of the country, in tandem with the various localized languages evident in various parts of Thailand.
The culture of Thailand is based upon Thai Buddhism, with a deeply spiritual connection with the past, a social hierarchy and strong sense of generosity and giving. Deeply ingrained in the culture is respect towards ancestors, elders even elder siblings towards younger ones.
This is perhaps the reason why the country is becoming more and more popular with foreign nationals. While nowhere near the main contributor to Thai culture, the country has a significant part of the population descendent from Chinese ancestry – and they have brought many Chinese traditions and values with them.
While the country has a strong culture based upon the past, food is also one of the more traditional ways in which the culture is promoted. Thai food offers an interesting blend of sweet, spicy, sour, butter and salty with a variety of sauces – something which has been easily exported to many overseas countries.
Thailand has a predominately export driven economy, and while it has taken some time to build up and expand the relatively new focus of the economy, it has been very successful. The economy was the best performing in the world between 1985 and 1995, averaging in excess of 9% growth per annum. This has formed the basis for the Thai economy that we see today, with particular strength in the areas of rice, textiles, rubber, jewellery and electrical appliances.
This impressive performance was abruptly halted for 12 months in 1997 with the onset of the Asian crisis, which had a massive impact on the Thai currency (as well as other currencies in the area). The Thai currency was then revalued to combat the issue of currency speculators taking advantage of the weakness – during this period the economy shrunk by some 10%. The economy then resumed a growth period from 1998 onwards until the current financial worldwide financial crisis. Now, the country’s GDP real growth rate is at a stable 4.8% and all the indicators show a rebound of the economy by next year.
Thailand has an excellent record on employment with under 2% of the population unemployed, which in 2009 is at 1.5% is one of the lowest in the region. Another expanding industry is the growing number of short and long term stay immigrants contributing more and more to the economy, and the quality of the economic revival. This has resulted in Thailand being rated as the 21st largest economy in the world.
While the short-term situation is being driven by the military leaders who instigated the coup, the medium and longer-term prospects are still very good especially in the midst of the worldwide recession.
As you might expect from a country that is as diverse as Thailand, the property market is both varied in styles and prices. The price of property is areas such as Bangkok continue to grow as the influx of immigrants continues, although overall there is expected to be a slow down in the market.
Initial forecasts at the start of the year were for 10% growth in 2007, although this has recently been revised down to 5% (a big difference from 10%, but still encouraging).
In 2009, all indicators show that still are unlikely to recover for some time as demand has been shrinking and there is an oversupply of development projects being mothballed. The cause is some concern that financial institutions in Thailand have been fairly cavalier in their recent approach to lending. If interest were to rise any further in the short term then the pressure on property owners would increase dramatically. Many are looking for the government to assist in bring lending back under control.
While there is a danger of a short-term economic growth bubble, the longer-term prospects for the country are still very positive. Many expats have, and continue to make their home in Thailand and the while there is some confusion about the current authorities, the positive promotion of Thailand to expats has never been in doubt.
Even after the rise of recent years, the Thai property market is still fairly young and under developed in many areas, offering great potential for long term economic growth.
A strong cultural background has served Thailand very well, giving the country a distinct identity when many have been influenced by other countries. This national pride has ensured that the economy has performed very well over the last 20 years, and the prospects for the long term are still upbeat.
The country is becoming more and more popular with those looking to relocate to the Far East, although some have delayed decisions until the political scene becomes more settled. Thailand is definitely on the up and Bangkok has proved to be a very useful location to catch the attention of travelers. Tourism seems to be growing year on year, with visitor number rising all of the time. The Thailand Expat Forum has provided many positive reviews of the Thai tourism industry, as the post in May 18,2009:
“But most of it is simply untrue!
The Beaches here are clean. Not a bit of rubbish on them.
The Sea is SO clean you could drink it. If it wasn’t salty.
The Roads are smooth as billiard tables. Not a pothole anywhere.
The Road users are polite and safe. Can’t recall seeing an accident this year. No not one!
The Air is far cleaner than Chang Mai’s. That’s for sure.
Walking St is kept free of traffic, so that a guy can stroll along without fear of being hit by a motor vehicle whilst his attention is on the many lovely ladies in the many inexpensive Bars.
Those lovely Ladies will accompany one, if you are feeling lonely. Away from the wife and all that. They only charge a small fee for a relaxing massage in the comfort of ones room, and as they do so, will discuss Nuclear Physics, the parlous state of the World Economy, or whatever…….
This the Reality of life in dear old Pattaya. God Bless it……. “
In fine, living in Thailand is summed up in this post from in March 27, 2009 on the Thailand Expat Forum:
“For me, it’s the lovely warm climate here in Pattaya. Couldn’t bare to go back to the grey skies of the UK…….”
Capital : Bangkok
Official Language : Thai
Government : Military Junta
Size : 514,000 km2
Population : 63 million
Currency : Baht
International Dialling Code : +66
Economy : 21st largest in the world
Religion : Buddhism