Following an upswing in exports that lifted growth above 4% in 2017 and 2018, real GDP slowed to an estimated 2.8% in 2019 as the US-China trade dispute and broader global slowdown curbed manufacturing exports. The IMF expects growth to accelerate to 3%-3.5% over the next five years. Ongoing implementation of projects in Thailand's flagship $50 billion Eastern Economic Corridor (about 10% of GDP) should support a pick-up in private and public investment. Greater infrastructure development, alongside a more stable political environment following democratic elections in mid-2019, should aid foreign investment. Recent fiscal and monetary easing supports domestic demand. But an ageing society, moderate competitiveness and labour skills shortages, if left unaddressed, will weigh on economic growth potential over time.
Thailand’s per-capita GDP is above the emerging Asian average, but below neighbours such as Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia. GDP per capita remained little changed around US$6,000 between 2012 and 2016, before a stronger growth performance raised incomes toward US$8,000 in 2019. The IMF expects incomes to reach US$10,000 in 2024. Authorities’ plans to raise investment in infrastructure, education and training can help Thailand expand production in higher-value added industries and lift productivity and household incomes.