Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Why blog about development and the environment in Thailand?

I have focused the majority of my undergraduate research on development issues, with a concentration in microfinance, nonprofit management, and fundraising. I was attracted to CIEE’s Khon Kaen Development and Globalization (DG) Program because I feel that it provides me with the perfect opportunity to observe and apply concepts that I have researched and learned in class, while working to improve the living standards of Thailand’s rural poor. While in Thailand I hope to expand my understanding of the complexities concerning development and globalization, and share my observations through this blog.

The Khon Kaen DG Program is unique, as it focuses on extensive field experience, but the fact that the program is based in Thailand also provides me with the opportunity to study in a country that has experienced considerable economic growth, but which has a severe unequal distribution of income. The poorest 20 percent of the population in Thailand hold only 6.3 percent of the country’s wealth, whereas the richest 20 percent hold 49 percent of the wealth (2007/2008 Human Development Indicators).

Taking these statistics and the recent growth of the country into consideration, the poorest 20 percent of the population are likely to be significantly more exposed to environmental hazards, a topic I hope to address in later blogs. I am scheduled to leave for Thailand on August 20th, however, I suspect that my first blogs chronicling my observations on Thai development, the environment and globalization will not come for a couple of weeks. In the meantime I will try to provide some background information on Thailand.

Thailand is a middle-income country in Southeast Asia, with a 2008 GDP per capita (PPP) of $8,700. Its economy experienced considerable growth from the 1960s to the mid 1990s; however, it suffered a severe financial crisis in 1997-1998. Since, it has recovered, posting average growth rates between 5 and 6 percent from 2000-2006.

Recently, Thailand’s growth rates have slowed, in part because the global economy has slowed, but also because political turmoil has induced uncertainty into the market.

With regards to social movements over the last three decades, the Thai government has been successful at reducing poverty and extending access to social services. By 2006 the number of poor people in Thailand had dropped to 6.1 million from 18.4 million in 1990. This achievement, however, has come at the expense of increasing income inequality.

In addition to growing income inequality, economic development in Thailand has spawned environmental concerns that must be addressed. In order to better understand the context of economic, social and environmental issues in Thailand the following three blogs will review the economic status of Thailand over the past 15 years, the current political state, and challenges facing the country going forward.

1 comment:

  1. Je peux dir que sont tres jolie
    Very fine blog and photos
    Agapitos from Greece