Thailand - Infrastructure, power, and communications

In the late 1980s, Thailand's infrastructure failed to cope with the rapid expansion of the economy. In fact, many experts believe that the country's economy could have grown more were it not for hindrances caused by inadequate infrastructure, a problem that is more pronounced

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Thailand 63 232 236 10.1 32 2.5 21.6 4.49 800
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
China N/A 333 272 40.0 19 1.6 8.9 0.50 8,900
Vietnam 4 107 47 N/A 2 0.3 6.4 0.00 100
a Data are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
b Data are from the Internet Software Consortium ( ) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

in the rural areas. Thailand's problem with inadequate transportation infrastructure is so severe that the Bangkok Metropolitan Region has become internationally notorious for its legendary traffic jams. Infrastructure for water, sewerage, and energy are also lagging behind the rate of urbanization and development. Secondary cities and rural areas are suffering because of their inability to attract investors due to poor infrastructure.

To address these problems, the Thai government has formulated a long-term infrastructure plan to meet the demands and requirements of a newly industrialized country. The government has prioritized the improvement of existing infrastructure and construction of new projects to alleviate the problem. Building on the goals of the previous economic plans, the Eighth National Economic Plan (1997-2001) allocated US$7.5 billion for infrastructure development, which is 47 percent more funds than the previous plan. The government also identified priority projects such as expressways, rapid mass transportation, port development, water supply, and telecommunications. At the same time, legal reforms are being instituted to enable the private sector to participate in infrastructure development.

However, the immediate implementation of the projects was stalled due to various reasons, the foremost of which was the onset of the Asian Financial Crisis in July 1997, which caused a serious economic recession. The immediate effect was a lack of adequate funds to continue on-going projects or to start construction of planned projects. Other obstacles were disputes with foreign builders and negotiations with potential operators of toll roads as well as last-minute changes in contract specifications and bureaucratic requirements like land-use permits.

Beginning in 1999 Thailand has slowly recovered from the debilitating effects of the recession. Combining funds from different sources like annual budgets, independent development loans, borrowings, and the private sector, a total of US$78 billion was allotted for infrastructure projects. The government is utilizing different strategies such as the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) scheme to fund construction of expressways and Mass Rapid Transfer (MRT) systems in Bangkok, to the installation of more telephone lines and the construction of privately-owned and operated power generating plants.

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