Thai officials struggle to contain floods as economy suffers

Updated On: Nov 02, 2011

Anger and resentment grew in Bangkok on Tuesday as Bangkok authorities tried to justify their efforts to protect downtown areas of the city, with residents protesting that their homes were being sacrificed in the process.

Accumulated water was released from a sluice gate after the government appeared to bow to pressure from angry residents in the east of the city. However, local authorities feared the move may put the Bang Chan Industrial Estate at risk.

Hundreds of similar factories have already had to close because of the floods, putting tens of thousands of people out of work. With at least five core industrial estates inundated and floodwaters continuing to rise in districts along the northern edges of Bangkok, economists are now estimating total damages could reach 300 billion Thai baht, or $9.7 billion.

Report: Thai officials on defensive as flood anger mounts [AFP, 1 November 2011]

Once one of the world's fastest growing economies, especially in the 1980s and 90s, Thailand has lagged behind the rest of Asia for the past decade, more recently due to political upheaval and natural disasters. Foreign direct investment has also fallen, with economists attributing Thailand's underperformance to the uncertain climate in the country which has rattled investors and distracted policy makers from badly needed infrastructure projects.

Commentators say the most recent floods could exacerbate the situation, but could also offer opportunity for change, once order has been restored. On Monday, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said the government is planning a program with an initial 800 billion baht ($25.97 billion) budget to provide aid for farmers, business operators and other people affected by floods, as well as to help prevent future floods.

Frederic Neumann, a regional economist at HSBC said that the disaster could be a make or break moment for Thailand, saying that if the country delivers a very determined response, and improves infrastructure to prevent the floods from happening again, then it could turn out to be a catalyst for reform and attracting new investment.

Report: Bangkok floods: Anger grows in deluged districts [BBC News, 1 November 2011]

Report: Submerged Thailand Losing Out to Peers [WSJ, 2 November 2011]

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