Thailand fact of the day

The World Bank reckons that over 70% of Thailand’s public expenditure in 2010 benefited Greater Bangkok, home to 17% of the country’s population.

That is from The Economist.

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. At one point in his sister’s tenure, a tonne of rice brought in as much as 20,000 baht ($625). It now fetches 8,000 baht, thanks to the fall in global prices and the removal of the government’s price floor.

Surely the Economist should mention exactly how ridiculous the rice buying scheme was? It has mentioned it before. At one point some 4% of GDP (not government expenditure) was just spent on buying rice at above market prices to stockpile it. Naturally rice was smuggled in from neighboring countries as well.

In any case, the rural poor may deserve a champion, but they deserve a better one than Thaksin and his family. Come to think of it, this is another Trump post, isn't it?

(Or perhaps it's a Brexit post?)

The point is surely that the government went from redistributing 4% of GDP (comparable as a share of GDP to what the U.S. spends on Medicare or Social Security) to the rural poor to much less. Was the rice buying scheme replaced with a more thoughtfully designed safety net for poor rice farmers that is even remotely comparable in magnitude?

+1. Is it really so hard to see why Thaksin was so popular? For the life of me I can't understand why the new regime hasn't at least tried to address the disparity in spending. I guess they just really don't give a hoot about the areas outside of Bangkok?

Hoosier, if you read the article, it does claim that the junta is attempting to address the disparity in spending.

And yes, it's not so hard to see why Thaksin was popular with rice farmers. Though considering that the self-same rice buying policy drove up the price of rice, which is an inferior good, it surely hurt quite many poor (and certainly hurt poor in other countries), so you surely can't claim that a full 4% was redistributed to the "rural poor" in general as opposed to just rice farmers.

Ah, you're one of those people who believe that the way to help the poor is to raise the price of foodstuffs and let them rot. It is a longstanding basis of our own agricultural policy.

Of course, I said no such thing.

Over 80% of Thailand's poor live in rural areas. http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/thailand/overview Which is the better investment in reducing poverty and promoting economic growth: industrial facilities in western Pennsylvania and Ohio or tech in Silicon Valley and Boston? I'm not sure which causes me more anxiety: reviewing the latest projection of the presidential election or the latest projection of the path of Hurricane Matthew.

"Which is the better investment in reducing poverty and promoting economic growth: industrial facilities in western Pennsylvania and Ohio or tech in Silicon Valley and Boston? "

Could you explain how anything that happens in silicone valley could reduce poverty in ohio? Are you looking at a 40 year time horizon or something?

If poverty predominates in rural areas or in the industrial belt, should government encourage people to stay in those areas or to move?

And what % of the national GDP is greater Bangkok?

Good point. Also keep in mind a lot of GDP 'growth' is getting rural folk who are 'off the grid' and not counted in GDP into cities, where they can be counted. Arguably their quality of life also goes up (farming is hard work, office work is a lot easier) but GDP can be misleading when it does not count self-sufficient farmers or the black market.

It's also an example of the 'capital effect' (nations' capitals do well as bureaucracy increases, the trend over the last 100 years).

I work in an office in Bangkok. Virtually 100% of the employees are Thai-Chinese and I suspects they have an average of close to two grand parents born in China.

No one in the office, except the maid, has a single ancestor who ever worked in a Thai rice field.

The virtual colonisation of Thailand by an immigrant Chinese commercial class is a hugely under-reported story.

That I bring it and call it unreported, does not mean I think it is a bad thing. The fact that Thailand has been uniquely open to integrating Chinese and the fact that it has been the most successful country in the region are probably not unconnected.

I would posit that Thailand is not only unique in the the amount of money spent in Bangkok (The Economist article goes on to say that skew exists in no other country), it is unique in the percentage of GDP controlled by a recent immigrant population.

Despite the partial-myth of Thai Chinese immigration, it is worth noting that all of the big commercials families (Central Group, Beer Chang/TCC, CP Group, Bangkok Bank, KBANK) and all of the recent deleted prime ministers in the last 20 pus years (Thaksin, Aphisit, Banharn, Chavalit, Leekpai) are 100% Chinese.

"Deleted" prime ministers should be "elected". I blame spellcheck for that. Other errors are my own.

"Despite the partial-myth of Thai Chinese immigration, it is worth noting that all of the big commercials families (Central Group, Beer Chang/TCC, CP Group, Bangkok Bank, KBANK) and all of the recent deleted prime ministers in the last 20 pus years (Thaksin, Aphisit, Banharn, Chavalit, Leekpai) are 100% Chinese."
Not all. At least according to Wikipedia, Thaksin's paternal gradmother was Thai. I confess I have never thought about the Chinese participation in Thailand's politics, only Thailand's economy. It is interesting that such a commercial/technocratic minority ("market-dominant minorities", Amy Chua would say) or some of its members can win elections. Maybe the Thais are very smart and opted for an enlightened policy instead of the usual Third World repression.

Thank you for the correction regarding Thaksin's ancestry. I was not aware of the Thai grandmother, although clearly Thaksin remains ethnically Chinese in identity.

I think you are right that "the Thais" are or were smart and opted for an "enlightened" policy that benefited them. However, "the Thais" in that sentence refer to the Thai aristocracy, for whom this clearly was a policy (or a strategy) and not an unintended consequence.

If 'the Thais" in your sentence refers to rural Thais, or all Thais, then the question becomes much more interesting. I am certain that there are beneficial aspects and detrimental aspects. I don't have a clear view on whether it was net positive or net negative, although am inclined towards the former.

However, the favouring of immigrant Chinese has now lead to a society where all of the wealth and privilege in centralised in a Bangkok-based elite with primarily foreign (and recent foreign) blood. Again, I am not saying this is bad necessarily in a Thai context, but anywhere else it would be regarded as a tinder box.

" However, “the Thais” in that sentence refer to the Thai aristocracy, for whom this clearly was a policy (or a strategy) and not an unintended consequence."
Them, too, but not only. At least concerning the Chinese success on electoral politics, it means they had to manage being elected. I can think of some "marked-dominant minorities" whose members coulfn't be elected.

"In particular, in the numerous non-Western countries that have a market-dominant ethnic minority, markets and democracy basically benefit not just different people or different classes, but different ethnic groups, creating an explosive situation that we just aren't familiar with here. Markets will tend to leave to the economic dominance of this small ethnic minority, whether it's the Indians in Kenya or the Chinese in Indonesia. At the same time, overnight democracy will empower the poor, indigenous majority." -- http://globetrotter.berkeley.edu/people4/Chua/chua-con3.html

Chua herself notes that Thailand has relatively high rates of intermarriage and a strong tendency toward cultural assimilation and tolerance compared to other Southeast Asian countries. Thai-Chinese in Thailand seem to be treated not much differently than Jewish or Italian-Americans in contemporary America.

Thank you for pointing it out.

Bangkok was a palace and a bunch of huts before the Chinese built it up. I've heard a majority of the urban population is of Chinese stock.

Maybe Bangkok and Thailand should separate the way Singapore and Malaysia did?

(By the way, that's a question, not advice. Most of my knowledge of Thailand is from attending high school musical productions of "The King and I.")

Completely different dynamics. Thai-Chinese speak Thai and worship Thai gods. And they're generally all admixed to some degree. There's no overt ethnic tension. Phibum took care of that. It's more of a class thing.

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