Thailand joins ranks of 'high achievers' in East Asia
Thailand has made it into the UNDP's list of "high achievers" in East Asia, along with China, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia.
The rapid human development progress of Thailand and Asia-Pacific nations is helping drive a historic shift, with hundreds of millions of people lifted from poverty and billions poised to join the South's fast-growing middle class, according to the 2013 "Human Development Report", which analyses more than 40 developing countries that have made striking human development gains in recent years.
The report attributes their achievements to strong national commitments to better public health and education services, innovative poverty eradication programmes and strategic engagement with the world economy.
The report notes that Thailand's success holds lessons for less developed economies, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. Countries endowed with arable land can continue to create stable jobs in agriculture, which occurred in Thailand, whose employment pattern of the 1960s is comparable to that of many Sub-Saharan African countries today.
Thailand has created millions of stable jobs in non-manufacturing industries such as retail, hospitality and construction, as well as in commercial farming. Stable agricultural jobs increased from just 519,000 in 1960 to nearly three million in 2008.
East Asia's most dynamic economies - including Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam - could use their foreign reserve holdings and other resources for creative new approaches to development assistance within the region and beyond.
While these countries differed greatly in their histories, political systems and economic profiles, they share common factors. Most had assertive governments that sought to take strategic advantage of the opportunities offered by global trade, while reducing poverty and inequality through pioneering home-grown social programmes.
East Asian countries like Thailand face many of the same challenges of developing countries in other regions - ageing populations, environmental risks, political pressures and inequality - and countries will need to stay smart to maintain their momentum.
Asia-Pacific will see a striking increase in the share of the elderly in the near future. This will push up the dependency ratio, which is the ratio of younger and older people to the working-age population. The productive-age population, ages 35-50, currently the largest population share, will reach retirement in 15-25 years.
Advancing health requires more than high-quality health services. Human poverty is multidimensional and many countries are discovering that they need simultaneous interventions on multiple fronts, including improvements in health and drug technology, widespread vaccinations, and public and private investments in health.
Thailand's universal health coverage is mentioned by the report as a bright spot. By 2009, 76 per cent of the population of about 48 million were registered in the universal health coverage scheme, which provides free inpatient and outpatient treatment and maternity, dental and emergency care. The scheme is fully financed by the government, with a budget in 2011 of US$34 million - $70 for each insured person - which accounts for 5.9 per cent of the national budget.