Thailand, in the midst of protests seeking to oust Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on claims she runs a corrupt government, has recorded budget deficits and income growth similar to its neighbors’ since her brother, Thaksin, was sworn in to the same office back in 2001.
The CHART OF THE DAY compares purchasing-power-parity growth of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines starting from 2001. The lower panel tracks annual budget balances of the Southeast Asian nations by percentage of gross domestic product from 2002 to 2012.
Thailand’s per-capita spending power rose 89 percent to $9,660 through 2012, based on data compiled by Bloomberg. Growth ranged from Indonesia’s 96 percent to 76 percent in the Philippines. Malaysia’s average income was highest at $16,919 and the Philippines’ lowest at $4,339. Among budgets, Thailand’s deficit averaged 1.8 percent in the 11 years ended 2012, compared with average deficits of 1.4 percent in Indonesia, 2.7 percent in the Philippines and 4.7 percent in Malaysia.
“Thailand’s economy has been somewhat immune to political unrest because of export growth and rising consumption,” said Santitarn Sathirathai, an economist at Credit Suisse Group AG in Singapore. “The boost was partly due to Thaksin’s stimulus policies, which were like steroids for the economy.”
Ending the Shinawatra political era is a goal of protesters who this week began blockades across Bangkok. They say corruption has tainted Thailand and want an unelected council to replace Yingluck’s government. Their main target is Thaksin, a telecom billionaire who ruled until being toppled in a 2006 coup. He later fled to avoid jail and has guided policy from abroad since his sister won an election in 2011. The government was headed by a junta and later Abhisit Vejjajiva, now an opposition leader, from October 2006 to August 2011.
The protests could cost the Thai economy 1 billion baht ($31 million) a day, according to the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce. Tourism accounts for about 10 percent of the $366 billion economy, based on central bank data, and just the threat of unrest sparked hotel and tour-group cancellations.