Thailand is a well known business and leisure destination located in the prosperous region of South East Asia. The country conjures different meanings to different people. Among many Nigerians, Thailand is known for its parboiled rice for which the country spends $US700million every year in rice import to feed its 160 million people. It is also known as a popular route in the hard drug business. To some others especially in Europe, it is a leisure destination popular for its 'gogo bars', massage parlors and romantic beaches. No matter how you look at it, Thailand has grown to become one of the Asian Tigers, with well developed infrastructure, massive foreign direct investment and one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world.
Could it be said that the country was lucky? I dont think so! Could it then have been by dint of hard work, focussed leadership and a government determined to get its people out of poverty? It may not be eldorado yet but I see the country getting there! As a matter of fact, it is the 4th richest country by GDP per capita in South East Asia after Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia.
The country's industry and agriculture sectors were traditionally intertwined. Today, however, industry has eclipsed agriculture in terms of contribution to GDP. The rapid growth of this sector can be attributed to free market forces, limited government assistance, and the private sector's quick response to shifting market demands.The increasing cost of labor has also led to a departure from labor-intensive ventures. To date, only the manufacturing industry contributes substantially to national income, particularly in food processing, automobiles, electronics, and petrochemicals. I am sure you are aware that it also serves as an 'anchor economy' for the neighboring developing countries of Laos, Burma and Cambodia.
The initial move into industrialization in the 1960s was characterized by import substitution, which mainly involved the processing of its bountiful agricultural produce. In 1972, a new Industrial Promotion Act signaled the shift in government policy to an export-oriented economy. This new emphasis began the rapid diversification of the industry sector which saw the rise of several industries, including petrochemicals, textiles, transportation equipment, electronics, iron and steel, and minerals. Experts predict that by the year 2015, Thailand would be one of the ten motor vehicle producing countries in the whole world! Do you know that Thailand is also home to medical tourism? Treatments for medical tourists in Thailand range from cosmetic, organ transplants, cardiac, and orthopaedic treatments to dental, cardiac surgeries and various therapies.
The manufacturing sector constitutes Thailand's main industry, producing a wide variety of goods such as textiles and garments, plastics, footwear, electronics, integrated circuits, computers and components, automobiles and parts, and cement. Manufacturing facilities are mostly located in Bangkok and on the Eastern Seaboard, which was launched in 1977 as the long-term site for large-scale small, medium, and heavy industries. In 1993, the manufacturing sector employed 10 percent of the entire labor force . By 1998, however, the sector already employed approximately 20 percent of the Thai workforce, who are among the highest paid workers in the country along with those working in the service industry. The manufacturing sector expanded its contribution to GDP, paving way for its position as one of the fastest growing economies in South East Asia, the second largest economy in South East Asia and the 24th largest economy in the World.
Given that manufactured goods are produced largely for export purposes, its share of export earnings grew steadily from 32 percent in 1980 to 74.7 percent in 1990 to 84.5 percent in 1999. Presently, its top export markets are the United States, Japan, the European Union, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China, with the United States and Japan jointly absorbing 36 percent of the country's exports.
In sub Saharan Africa, Nigeria is its major trading partner importing well over one million tonnes of Thai rice, valued at $700m every year. Meanwhile, the trade imbalance sees Nigeria exporting a measly S10million worth of petroleum and $20million worth of gas to this country that has since departed from monoculture.
As if to teach Nigerians some lessons in economic diversification especially in the manufacturing sector, a team of Thailand business people was in the country to explore investment opportunities. Did we take notes?