With an average
growth rate of 8.5% for the past several years, Thailand has been touted
as the next nation to join that exclusive club of the Newly Industrializing
Countries (NIC). Since the 1950s, Thailand has seen the rapid extension
of the industrial and service sectors, and the relative decline of agriculture.
Today, agriculture contributes just over 15% of the country's GDP, while
manufacturing alone contributes over one-quarter of the GDP. Rice, the
main export for hundreds of years is today exceeded in value terms by
textiles, electronics, and tourism.
Although the economy
has diversified significantly, most Thais are still linked to the agricultural
sector. The slow growth in this sector compared with the industrial sector
means that there is now a wider economic gap between urban and rural folks.
has lead to massive migration of the population from the countryside to
the towns and cities, especially Bangkok. Social and economic changes
has been even more pronounced in urban Thailand. Here, new activities
and culture forms have displaced tradition.
Meanwhile, as the
fastest developing of Asia's "tiger" economies beyond China, Thailand
shouts business opportunities at every turn. As always in Thailand, however,
surface appearances can be deceptive. Try scratching the veneer of a Bangkok
or a Thai Urbanite and you will find that not far below lies the same
elemental strands of a country dweller. Therefore accessing Thailand's
pots of potential profitability demands caution, stealth, and a rough
understanding of a labyrinthine bureaucracy and internecine web of national
complexities. Above all it requires patience, not just of a people who
cannot be hurried but also of ingrained customs procedures, which doggedly
refuses to budge for the onset of the 21st Century.
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