ECONOMY: INDUSTRY AND MINERAL RESOURCES
The industry employs just over a fifth of the active population but, as “submerged” manufacturing activities are widespread, practiced outside the legal controls, the figure certainly underestimates the number of workers in the sector. Generally speaking, the consumer goods industry has developed in Thailand (to the detriment of the heavy one), which had arisen since the Vietnam War to meet the demand of US troops stationed or in transit in Thailand, but strongly encouraged by the relocation of activities from industrial countries with high labor costs, starting with Japan. See Paulsourcing for importing tips on Thailand. This evolution has mainly affected the textile and clothing sector (knitwear, shirts), that of consumer electronics (computers, components), whose products are mainly exported, and the automotive one. Also destined abroad are the products of the chemical and petrochemical industry. Traditional, but in great development thanks to the increase in domestic consumption and exports, are also the agri-food industries, while a considerable development has experienced the construction sector (starting with the production of cement), as a consequence of the strong building expansion of Bangkok and, more in general, the infrastructure works (roads, airports) implemented in the country. After the international crisis of 1985, tin is no longer Thailand’s main mineral resource, although the country still ranks fifth worldwide for the production of foundry tin. The new mining products are lignite, lead, zinc (of which it is the third largest producer in Asia), After the international crisis of 1985, tin is no longer Thailand’s main mineral resource, although the country still ranks fifth worldwide for the production of foundry tin. The new mining products are lignite, lead, zinc (of which it is the third largest producer in Asia). After the international crisis of 1985, tin is no longer Thailand’s main mineral resource, although the country still ranks fifth worldwide for the production of foundry tin. The new mining products are lignite, lead, zinc (of which it is the third largest producer in Asia), fluorite. Other important productions are those of tungsten, gypsum, salt, manganese, petroleum, phosphates, gold, silver, iron, coal and natural gas. Among the precious stones, the yellow, green and blue sapphires should be mentioned.
ECONOMY: TRADE, COMMUNICATIONS AND TOURISM
Trade has been the most dynamic sector of the Thai economy for some time. The tertiary activities occupy about 38% of the active population, thus demonstrating a very high productivity (but, even in this case, informal activities such as small businesses remain excluded from the calculation), contributing to 45% of GDP. The most modern components of the sector are banking, insurance and financial ones, which particularly in Bangkok have marked a remarkable development (although hit by the 1997 crisis); large commercial distribution, well organized, is also present to a predominant extent in the capital; the upgrading of infrastructures can count on further public funding. Trade is particularly vibrant throughout Thailand. Foreign trade is important both at the regional level, where Thailand acts as the main supplier of modern products (often in turn imported into Thailand from abroad) to neighboring countries, and in the long haul. In 2006, contrary to what happened the previous year, the trade balance was in surplus. The main exports are represented, in decreasing order of value, by electrical and electronic material, machinery, vehicles and accessories, plastic products, food, petroleum and derivatives, rubber, clothing: exports of crustaceans and timber are down; a quarter of the total relates to high-tech artifacts while the weight of mining products is now negligible. Imports, on the other hand, are represented by a wide range of manufacturing products. Among the countries to which Thai products are exported are the USA, China, Japan and Singapore. Thailand mainly imports from: Japan, China, USA, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates and Singapore. § The dense network of waterways, natural and artificial (4000 km), used above all by sampan; fundamental road axes are the Menam and the Mekong. The railway network is quite extensive (4071 km) and fairly modernized; the main lines all radiate from Bangkok heading towards the north (Chiang Mai), towards Laos (with terminals in Nong Khai and Ubon Ratchathani), towards Cambodia (Aranyaprathet) and towards the south along the Malay peninsula. The road network, which has developed considerably in recent decades, now exceeds 53,500 km and is almost entirely asphalted; the main artery is the one that runs in the direction of the meridians, connecting the northern regions with the southern ones (various rolling stock today with intense traffic were built by the Americans to join their bases in Thai territory, thus opening up vast regions to contacts with the rest of the Village). Lively is the maritime movement, which has an excellently equipped port in Bangkok. The airports of the capital (a second airport was completed in 2006) are among the most important in Southeast Asia. § Tourism-related services continue to record sustained growth (with 13.8 million tourists in 2006, practically doubled within a decade), despite the setback linked to the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami.