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Asean Affairs   1 July  2011

The Gini coefficient in Asia and Thailand

By  David Swartzemtruber

AseanAffairs     1 July 2011

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Income inequality is usually measured by a country's Gini coefficient, in which 0 is perfect equality (everyone has the same income) and 1 is perfect inequality (i.e., one household takes everything)

The rising disparity in economic levels between China’s urban and rural levels suggests an opportunity to look at how the rest of Asia is doing.

According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), income inequality has increased over the past decade or so in 15 of the 21 countries it has studied. The biggest increases in inequality were in China, Nepal and Cambodia. Below are recent figures with the United States thrown in for reference. It is important to point out, according to the ADB, that the Singapore and United States figures may be higher than in actuality due to the factors of widespread social funding, pensions and other forms of economic support.

Singapore: 42.5

Thailand: 42.5

China: 41.5

United States: 40.8

Cambodia: 40.7

One notices that Thailand has high social inequality between the richest and poorest and urban and rural residents.

This disparity is a major driving force in the Thai general election that concludes on Sunday, July 3.

The Democrat party is often seen as being driven by the Thai middle and upper income levels in Bangkok. The Pheu Thai party and previous political parties, under the leadership of Thailand’s richest man, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, pioneered “populist” programs that involved a village fund that villagers could use as well as a public health insurance program . The current Pheu Thai incentives are a free tablet PC for students, a credit card for farmers to help them purchase supplies and an increase in the minimum wage.

The Democrat party has emulated Thaksin with its own populist programs including a more conservative boost in the minimum wage.

Most of Thailand’s voters live in rural areas. The outcome of the election will be determined by how these voters vote and that will be determined by how voters perceive which party can help them economically.

In addition to the two major parties, 40 other parties are in the election.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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