Thailand’s economy: Introduction

Thailand’s economic outlook has improved significantly over the past few years, and the year 2018 concluded with good news: the economy was estimated to have grown at 4.2% – the highest rate since 2013. A recent report by the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC) suggested that the Thai economy grew on average by 4.3% in the first nine months of last year, with a slightly slower rate in the final quarter of the year. The report further indicated that the fastest expansion in 2018 took place during the first quarter, when the 4.8% growth rate was the highest in 20 quarters.


The NESDC revealed that Thailand experienced continued growth in the first three quarters due to a favorable increase in private consumption expenditure and increasing public investment. In the third quarter of the year, private consumption expenditure grew by 5%, representing a 0.5% increase from the previous quarter, while private investment also continued its expansion, growing at a rate of 3.9%. These positive trends were complemented by increased investment in machinery and equipment.

Apart from the country’s overall economic expansion in 2018, Thailand also achieved its target for foreign investment promotion applications. The Thailand Board of Investment (BOI) announced a total investment application for 2018 of THB 901,700 million, exceeding its target by 25%. Among the 1,626 investment applications received, 84% were in the 10 targeted industries under the Thailand 4.0 vision, accounting for THB 758,000 million in total. At a more specific level, the five new S-curve industries – digital, medical hub, biofuels and biochemical, robotics and automation, and aviation – received applications for projects with a total investment value of THB 539,000 million. An additional THB 219,000 million is also set to be invested in the first S-curve industries, which includes agriculture and biotechnology, electrical and electronics, automotive and auto parts, tourism and food processing.


For 2019, the NESDC projects that the country’s economic growth to continue at a rate within the range of 3.5-4.5%. To secure the growth that will benefit the country’s economy, the NESDC has emphasized private investment as it is expected to be one of the supporting factors for this year’s economic expansion, along with other positive influences, including the recovery of the tourism sector, the growing momentum of private consumption, and global economic expansion.

For its part, the BOI has vowed to continue its support for targeted activities that will contribute to adding value to local economies and higher technologies in the country. Ms. Duangjai Asawachintachit, the BOI’s Secretary General, also noted earlier this month that a series of support measures have been issued to attract investment from the main target FDI home economies, including Japan, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, the United States, the European Union and beyond. It is believed that the targeted investment application for 2019 of THB 750,000 million will be achieved and will contribute significantly to another promising year for Thailand.

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