Section 2 
Is Thailand in decline?  3 emerging symptoms    (continued)

Symptom 3:  Areas where we excel. 

How are we doing relative to the broader region and the world?  Despite all the hype about getting ready for the AEC, Thailand still ranks 54th (out of 55) (4)  in English language skills.  Despite all the rhetoric about moving up the value chain and becoming a knowledge economy, we rank 62nd in R&D spending as share of GDP (5).  Despite all the billboards exhorting us to fight corruption, we rank 88th out of 176 countries in corruption perception index (6).  And we rank an astounding 168th in energy intensity or how much energy we use to produce our GDP (7).  Only 31 other countries in the world use energy less efficiently than we do.  These include oil producers like Iran, Russia, and Bahrain.  But unlike them we are a country which has to import much of our energy and electricity.

It can be argued that we might have been uncharitable by picking those areas where we rank low.  Indeed, there are several areas where Thailand excels.  We are #1 in Asia for adult HIV infections prevalence rate (8),  #2 in Asia for income inequality and #2 in ASEAN for teen pregnancies (9).  #3 globally for deaths from road accidents (10) .  And #4 globally for number of military coups (11). 


How did we lose our way?  When (and why) did we start losing our attractiveness as a destination for FDI, lagging our counterparts, and generating world-class performance in such areas as inequality and energy inefficiency?  We next review some of the key developments across different dimensions of the country’s development experience.            

(4)   Ranked by EF (TOEFL testing institute), year 2012
(5)   web site
(6)   Transparency International (2013)
(7)   Energy Information Administration (EIA)
(8)   CIA World Factbook
(9)   UNFPA (2012)
(10) Global Health Survey, WHO
(11) Center for Systemic Peace as refered on