Thailand has made impressive progress over the past several decades, both in economic and social terms. Sustained strong growth and a rapidly modernising economy have turned Thailand into an upper-middle income country with Bangkok as a strong urban centre. Economic success has brought impressive social advancement. Based on national definitions, poverty has plummeted from 60% in 1990 to 7% today, while education and health services have considerably expanded and improved.

These achievements have brought a new set of challenges. Rising prosperity has not been shared equally across the country and economic transformation needs a boost. More than half of the working population is in precarious jobs. The creation of new activities replacing low-productivity ones has slowed in recent years, and rural migrants and urban poor lack the skills required for modern jobs. While Bangkok’s success as a metropolis has been key to Thailand’s transformation, thriving secondary cities are needed to develop new sources of growth and make progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.

Today, Thailand strives to achieve a sustainable development path that could benefit all, reinvigorate economic transformation and reduce multifaceted inequalities. The “National Strategy 2036” and “Thailand 4.0” attest to these ambitions. In doing so, Thailand will need to adapt to an ageing society, while developing new engines for further economic transformation and new approaches to overcome regional inequalities and ensure well-being for all. Environmental disasters, particularly those related to water, will continue to challenge Thailand’s ability to manage prevention and effective service delivery.

Experience shows that development is not about getting everything right, but about getting right what matters most. This Initial Assessment of the Multi-dimensional Country Review (MDCR) endeavours to identify the challenges and key constraints that Thailand must overcome to succeed, and offers a number of high-level policy recommendations. To move ahead, Thailand will need to tackle informality, boost productivity across all regions and improve the management of natural resources, particularly water. Progress on all of these fronts requires a more effective government, which today is held back by an overly complex organisation and is insufficiently adapted to delivering quality services in all regions. The next volumes of the MDCR will provide further suggestions for action to address these challenges.

This report represents a truly multidisciplinary effort involving several OECD directorates and committees and combining economic, social, statistical, environmental and institutional expertise. It comes as a precursor to a broad Country Programme between Thailand and the OECD that will span three years and involve a wide range of reviews and OECD instruments.

Mario Pezzini

Director of the OECD Development Centre and Special Advisor to the OECD Secretary-General on Development

Martine Durand

OECD Chief Statistician Director of the Statistics Directorate

Alvaro Pereira

Acting OECD Chief Economist and Director of Country Studies in the Economics Department