The Local Economy
Bangkok, as the capital, is the most densely-populated city of Thailand, and the city’s recent economic growth has also given it regional status. Bangkok grew rapidly between the 1960s and 1980s, and the investment boom that followed led a number of multinational corporations such as Unilever and Sony to establish their regional headquarters here. Bangkok is now an international centre for transport and health care, and is emerging as a focal point for the arts, fashion and entertainment. A number of ex-pats have settled in the city as executives or in specialist roles.
In Greater Bangkok, the largest sectors are the wholesale and retail trade, alongside the car manufacturing industry, which is the largest in Southeast Asia. Manufacturing also extends to producing the popular arts and crafts, jewellery, processed rice and convenience food, processing crops, and lumber. Tourism also makes a significant contribution to the city’s economy.
Bangkok is, in addition, a centre of the petrochemical industry as well as textile production. Companies producing high-tech and consumer products also attract expats as does Bangkok’s electronics industry along with the automobile plants of Greater Bangkok. At the same time, for Thais, the gap between the low earners and the professionals and business elites is wide in the capital, although very few people are living below the poverty line.
Urban planning and regulation in the city has lagged behind Bangkok’s economic growth, however, resulting in inadequate infrastructure systems and a haphazard cityscape. Despite the extensive expressway network, traffic congestion is still chronic as more private cars have taken to the roads. The subsequent air pollution, which reached a crisis in the 1990s, has, nevertheless, now been eased to some extent since the authorities have provided new public transport lines.