- Thailand may be called an underdeveloped country. The
population of 26-28,000,000 people is increasing at a rate of three
percent per year. Seventy-five percent of the people live in rural
areas and agriculture, the most important occupation, contributes
from 36 to 40 percent of the gross national product. Productivity
and per capita income are low.
However, Thailand is a rapidly developing country that has
the resources to develop much more.
The population density of 51 persons per square kilometer
is only one-fifth that of Japan. Only 20 percent of the land area is
cultivated, but an additional 15 percent of the total area could be
brought under cultivation.
Thailand has large unused water resources. Lack of storage
causes the country to be very dry, or very wet and flooded, but new
programs are providing multi-purpose dams which will store water
for flood control and irrigation. The 10 million rai now under irrigation
can be more than doubled. Irrigation will greatly increase
productivity and make it possible to grow two crops per year. A
wide variety of crops are grown.
The average level of education of the people is very low, but
this is being corrected by new schools for the youth and extension
programs for the adult farmers.
Much economic development has occurred during the past
decades, but the first National Economic Development Plan was
started in 1961 and will end in 1966. Under the Plan, many problems
of education, health, community welfare and government
administration will be reduced. The infrastructure of the economy
will be built through public development investments in power,
irrigation, communication, transportation, and community
The government has the policy of promoting industry and
manufacturing through the private investment. From 1961 to 1963,
gross fixed capital formation in the public sector increased by 700
million baht ($1.00 U.S. = 20.8 baht) while in the private sector the
increase was 3,500 million baht.
One of the principal objectives of the National Economic
Development Plan is the development of agriculture.
Fourteen percent of the expenditures under the Plan are for
agriculture and cooperatives, but agricultural productivity will be
benefited also by expenditures for communications, transportation,
power, community facilities, and others.
The major share--52 percent--of the funds for development
investment will come from the appropriation of government tax
revenues. Foreign loans will provide for 22 percent and foreign
grants for 11 percent.
During the first three years of the Plan, increases in
agricultural production have been far in excess of targets in the
Plan. Even with the conservative estimates of the Plan, increases
in agricultural output should reach five billion baht per year by
1966. Exports of agricultural products should earn two billion
baht per year. These estimates do not include any additional national
income resulting from processing and handling of agricultural commodities.
The growth in agricultural income will continue for many
years after the end of the Plan as farmers learn to use new techniques
such as irrigation, and as completion of projects permits irrigation
of more land.
For the six-year period, Development Plan expenditures
are expected to average 5.4 billion baht per year. Foreign grants
and loans needed during the years of the Plan to balance international
payments range from 1. 92 to 3. 57 billion baht.
Given these magnitudes of investment, increases in agricultural
output, and potential further increases, it can be concluded
that increased production from the agricultural sector could provide
the capital for financing the economic development of Thailand.
Whether this can be achieved depends upon the success of the administrators
of Thailand's economic development in recognizing the
potential and in coordinating the Development Plans.