Thailand: How does it compare to New Zealand

Thailand is an interesting mix of Chinese, Japanese and Philippine cultures moulded into a large and relatively peaceful society.

The economy is very substantial, built around a population of 63 million people with some 12 million living in Bangkok alone. A further million in Chiang Mai, make up a third of the population. It's a bit like New Zealand, with Auckland being the larger city, again taking approximately one third of our population.

The Thai economy, like the rest of the world, has put large emphasis on tourism. However, uncertainties within the world including Sept 11, flooding in the United States, tropical storms, earthquakes and so on, have resulted in people staying home. This has reflected a drop of 25% in tourism in Thailand which is very similar to the 20% drop New Zealand is currently experiencing. The reduction in travel seems to be a worldwide phenomenon, yet the airlines continue to expand.

Thailand's agriculture is predominantly based on rice production where it's a net exporter. Sugar cane, rubber, tapioca and vegetables are also big crops. The vegetable crops are grown to feed the huge population, with fresh vegetables readily available at the markets on any day. Thailand has an advantage with its hot climate, which enables the farmers to double crop. The two crops a year result in increased returns and production.

Thailand is very dependent on oil imports, as is New Zealand, to run their very busy economy. They have substantial gas fields in the bay that are used carefully. The taxis and tuk tuks must run on gas because it is relatively cheap and burns very efficiently.

Bangkok is building a new and larger international import with four runways, four kilometres long. There will be two runways for landing and two runways for take-off. This airport is expected to be completed next year, and will meet the ever increasing demand for travellers.

Like New Zealand, they have been through a boom and inflation is a problem. Interest rates are now 6.5% and expected to reach 8% in 2006. Thailand is trying to dampen down inflation and keep growth under control.

Some farmers have had to have half their debt written off by the government. The Government wrote off the debt then refinanced them on a long term basis hoping this will overcome the farmers' problems. Here's hoping, this will not be a trend we will see in New Zealand. It is also interesting to bear in mind what is happening in other countries.

So what's the comparison? In summary, Thailand is a semi-rural economy with a vast population and is currently experiencing growth in the manufacturing industry and tourism. They seem to have similar issues to New Zealand, but on a grander scale. I believe it's a good idea to think about and watch how other economies trend…. Watch this space!


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