Thailand has come a long way and represents an impressive development story: it has drastically reduced the number of poor people from nearly 70% of the population in 1986 to 11% in 2013 and its economy grew at an average annual rate of 7.5% in the late 1980s and early 1990s, creating jobs that helped pull millions of people out of poverty.
However, challenges remain as there are still 11% – 7 million – of the population living below the poverty line, and another 7 million or so who remain highly vulnerable to falling back into poverty. Although inequality has declined over the past 30 years, the distribution in Thailand remains unequal compared with many countries in East Asia. Significant and growing disparities in household income and consumption can be seen across and within regions of Thailand, with pockets of poverty remaining in the Northeast, North, and Deep South. Today, the Thai economy faces headwinds, and growth has been modest. Export competitiveness is sliding, and a severe drought is expected to weigh on off-season rice production. Poverty is expected to continue to fall at a slower rate, with poor households concentrated in rural areas affected by falling agricultural prices. The country is now at a critical time since the new draft constitution won approval by a majority.