Despite Thailand’s many economic successes, how and why did Thailand neglect to ‘upgrade’ its industrialisation, taking it to be ‘stuck in the in-between income trap’ ?

Thailand has accomplished much in the past 30 old ages in traveling from lower- to upper-middle-income position, nevertheless, it now becomes no longer competitory. There are some distressing economic marks that it is non following a steady rise seen in the East Asiatic Lttes like Taiwan and South Korea.

Thailand has experienced rapid economic growing during the 2nd half of the 20th century. When economic development started in the sixtiess with the first five-year economic development program, import-substitution industrialisation with authorities control and intercession was the chief development scheme. In the late seventiess, this scheme shifted to export-oriented development scheme based on inexpensive labour-intensive industries, development of natural resources and comparatively low-technology foreign direct investing to get the better of with narrow domestic markets. Since 1997, nevertheless, the economic system of Thailand could non endorse to its old rates of economic growing but lag, as its roar growing stagnated in 1997 fiscal crisis.

Despite undergoing dramatic economic transmutation in Thailand during the past five decennaries, but the fight is diminishing due to failure of uninterrupted upgrading its industrialisation. In a recent article the Bank of Thailand said middle-income traps are empirical generalisations that one time Thailand reaches middle-income degree at the hamlets, there is concern that Thailand lacks capableness to raise its growing rates and about becomes impossible traveling from middle-income to higher-income degree. The GDP per capital of Thailand is about 15 to 20 per cent of US degrees for more than ten old ages which shows Thailand is still caught in a middle-income trap. The middle-income trap refers to a state face the state of affairs where it is unable to vie against other advanced economic systems with high degrees of invention and value-adding activities, but besides unable to vie with less developed economic systems which have cheaper labour, in other words, a state is no longer to prosecute a scheme based on low-priced advantages and unable to make new beginnings of growing. ( Somchai, 2013, p14 ) As the planetary rewards rise, industries in Thailand can non vie in export markets because it now faces turning competition from low-priced manufacturers in China, India, Vietnam and Cambodia, besides at the same clip they can non successfully vie against selling higher value-added merchandises.

The review of Somboon and Donor is that Thailand ne’er adequate “deepening” in the development of indusrtialisation, even it ahs rapid growing in economic system. Typically, the chief grounds of falling into the middle-income trap are hapless labour market, limited industrial variegation, low investing ratios and eventually slow fabrication growing conditions. In Thailand, lifting income inequality continuously under an oligarchic political construction, low instruction quality every bit good as neglecting to set its national economic theoretical account and policies to suit the dynamic environments. As Inequality in income distribution will besides increase other inequalities such as instruction inequality that affect economic development. Education quality is of import to long-run growing. Thailand is without a high-quality instruction system which aims to supply universally-available quality instruction. Modern Education systems heighten the human capital, invention accomplishments every bit good as encourage creativeness, scientific and engineering discoveries which raise competitory capacity of society, and it facilitates the transmittal of cognition, which will assist cut down the relentless high-income inequality in Thailand. As the biggest challenge for Thailand is traveling from inexpensive capital labour resource-driven growing to high-value productiveness and invention.

Failed to upgrade its industrialization because Thailand is deficiency of human capital and industry concern theoretical account like the physical substructure in the industrial estates, besides inefficient resource use, limited economic variegation and institutional structural transmutations from low-productivity to high-productivity activities. Consequently, low attempts devoted to research and development ( R & A ; D ) . It is convinced that attempts and investings in invention and R & A ; D to bring forth more higher value-added goods are indispensable for middle-income states to come on to high-income degree.

Although Thailand has moved up the value concatenation into exporting more technologically-advanced merchandises like cars and electronics, Thai companies are merely assemble merchandises designed by other states, alternatively of puting in R & A ; D to introduce their ain merchandises, therefore it is non good plenty to avoid the trap. For illustration, those traditional industries like fabric industry in Thailand can non travel up the value concatenation and engage in higher quality production of higher value-added merchandises by higher degrees of efficient invention and engineering with local inputs, hence it is now unable to vie in the universe markets in term of costs. Even though both Thailand and South Korea began by trusting on exports to bring forth rapid economic growing by its export-oriented development scheme, South Korea was succeeded to set up its ain internationally competitory industries. As Thailand has non done good at upgrading but becomes “technology-less industrialization” , so there is no “Thai Samsung or Thai LG” but has “Korean Samsung and LG.”

Furthermore, Industrial policy of Thailand did non pay adequate attending to increase the development of autochthonal technological capableness of local houses as an built-in factor in the procedure of industrialisation ( Sripaipan, Vanichseni, and Mukdapitak, 1999: 37 ) . Without selective industrial policies and purposeful steps it would hold non been successful in technological catching up and upgrading. Despite the apprehension of proficient solutions required, the world is that the Thailand’s economic system continues to “sluggishly clutter through, ” a description foremost used by Scott Christensen and Ammar Siamwalla in 1993. Several surveies of Tai houses conducted since the 1980s province that most houses have grown without intensifying their technological capablenesss in the long tally. Merely a little minority of big domestic houses and SMEs have capableness in R & A ; D, while the bulk is still fighting with increasing their design and technology capableness, and their technological acquisition has been really slow and inactive. The ratio of R & A ; D disbursement to GDP has stagnated at around 0.2 per centum yearly.

In the past 50 old ages, Thailand fabrication had developed under the inactive and slow fortunes. This reflects non merely deficiency of good industrial policies but besides deficiency of institutional capacities and model to back up cooperation between the authorities and private sector by hapless results of Thaksin on fight upgrading. Besides, Thailand lacks industrial cognition and experience among technocrats and well-organized concern associations which lead houses inclined to look after their ain involvement instead than national involvements, so corruptness is being serious and people spend much attempt on rent seeking. Furthermore, the disconnected political party systems and vote-buying are common, as the political force per unit area and vested-interest groups have been the exporters, industrialists and bankers, whilst most of provincials are less powerful and thereby unable to dicker with vested-interest groups and administrative officials. It is convinced that Thai political parties got fiscal support from urban vested-interest groups. Therefore, Thailand should non concentrate merely on laissez-faire policy for acquiring the monetary values right but besides needs to acquiring the establishments right with strong political support. Since the institutional capacity for managing industrial policies in Thailand is underdevelopment because its disposal has been known as an inefficient, slow-moving and corrupt bureaucratism. Rent seeking and corruptness should be kept at a minimal by doing administrative ordinances transparent and accountable to cut down discretional power. ( Siriprachai, 2012, p6 )

Widely recognized convincing grounds that Thailand is the low criterion and variableness in instruction quality. Students from Bangkok and other urban countries by and large receive higher quality instruction and hold a higher opportunity of being admitted to colleges than those from the states. It will enlarge the spread in productiveness between urban and rural sectors, and other unequal conditions of the government’s revenue enhancement and disbursement policies. Since the urban prejudice of development leads the authorities neglects the agricultural productiveness, it accordingly brings rural poorness. Furthermore, high pay continues disparity in Thailand besides becomes a major challenge to its future economic development. Wagess need to be kept low for unskilled workers to back up export-driven growing based on low-priced merchandises. However, the low pay development theoretical account provides no inducement for houses to better its labour productiveness, upgrade production engineering and heighten the value concatenation. So that the old theoretical account does non work any more and will be bit by bit restricting in the hereafter, therefore the international fight can non be maintained.

Thailand besides has some obstructions to hike long-run growing, foremost is the fiancial construction, as it is roll uping much less in the manner of revenue enhancement than international norms. Therefore, the Tai authorities does non hold adequate resources to put either in developing substructure or societal public assistance and societal protection plans. Second, the land copiousness and deficiency of land reform in Thailand make no strong inducements to be efficient in agribusiness.

In decision, the Thai economic system needs economic, political, and institutional reforms. In fact, Thai society perfectly needs good administration with good development direction. Missing a mechanism for efficaciously commanding discretional power is a serious drawback of a government of patron-client relationships which might go a major barrier to any reforms. ( Siriprachai, 2012, p10 )


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Walker, Andrew, 2012, Thailand’s Political Peasants: Power in the Rural Modern Economy ( Madison: University of Wisconsin Press

Jitsuchon, Somchai ( 2013 ) ‘Thailand in a Middle-income Trap ‘ , TDRI Quarterly Review, 27 ( 2 ) , 13-20.

Kohpaiboon A. , and N. Poapongsakorn. 2011. Industrial Upgrading and Global Recession: Evidence of Hard Disk Drive and Automotive Industries in Thailand. ADBI Working Paper 283.

Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker, ‘Populist Challenge to the Constitution: Thaksin Shinawatra and the Transformation of Thai Politics’ , in Routledge Handbook of Southeast Asiatic Politics, 2012, pp. 83-96