Integrity Legal

5th November 2013

In recent postings throughout the internet, speculation regarding the future of Southeast Asian economics abound. Meanwhile, further analysis of the Thai economy in particular is rife. In a recent article on Forbes’ official website evidence has been cited which would appear to point to the possibility that Thailand may experience an economic bubble burst akin to the crash of 1997. Various Thai government officials as well as Thai businesspersons were quoted as saying that certain aspects of the Thai economy are troubling. Notably, inflows of foreign capital specifically targeting the Thai property market as well as signs that Thai people are engaged in what could be described as conspicuous consumption are leading some experts to believe that Thailand could be headed for a new economic downturn.

Concurrently, the article went on to note that Thailand, ever susceptible to negative economic consequences arising from nations which maintain significant trade relationships with the Kingdom, may see problems in export sectors resulting from decreased demand in both China and the other nations which comprise the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Should there be an economic problem in one of these countries then there could be a sort of negative ripple effect in the export sector in Thailand.

The points made in the article are compelling and certainly there may be cause for concern that the Thai economy may be placed in a difficult position in the future, especially if Thailand’s main export markets experience an economic downturn. However, the situation may not be as dire as some are predicting. Instead, this blogger would argue that Thailand’s economy may be simply in something of a state of flux due to changes in the ASEAN region and China. The dynamics of global economics are changing. American monetary policy along with economic problems in Europe have caused many to look toward Asia as a beacon of possible future growth.

In a recent article on the official website of Bloomberg it was noted that there appears to be a “boom” of sorts occurring in the Eastern province of Rayong and the region of Northeast Thailand known as Isan. As automobile manufacturing has increased in Rayong, so too has the purchasing power of residents of that province. Meanwhile, Isan is experiencing an upsurge economically as a result of increased domestic income and also concomitant demand for consumer goods from the local population. All of this news comes closely upon the heels of announcements that Thailand, Laos, and China will one day be connected via a high speed rail system. In fact, China has recently noted their commitment to that project and Thai officials have asked China to assist in the design of a rail system between Bangkok and Udon Thani (a city of 400,000 which sits close to the border and capital of Laos). There is an argument that should this rail system go into place the resulting economic boon to Thailand, particularly Northeast Thailand, could be tremendous as there could be a substantial increase in trade and tourism from China via this rail link. Moreover, Thailand could see itself becoming the entrepot for trade between South China and the rest of the ASEAN jurisdictions.

Presently, it is difficult to say whether Thailand will continue a trend of uninterrupted prosperity. However, there is strong evidence to suggest that increased economic integration with ASEAN as well as new, less logistically difficult, trade opportunities with China could usher in an era of prosperity and counter some of the negative factors currently worrying experts analyzing the current state of the Thai economy.


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