If you want to understand contemporary Thai politics, there is a lot to be gained from the latest announcement by the World Bank.

BANGKOK, July 2011–The World Bank has upgraded Thailand’s income categorization from a lower-middle income economy to an upper-middle income economy this year.

The World Bank annually revises its classification of the world’s economies based on gross national income (GNI) per capita estimates using the Atlas method. As of July 1, 2011, upper-middle-income economies are those with average incomes of US$3,976 to US$12,275. Using the Atlas method, Thailand’s GNI per capita is currently at US$4,210.

World Bank Senior Economist Kirida Bhaopichitr says: “The upgrade is in recognition of Thailand’s economic achievements in the past decade in which GNI per capita has almost doubled, while poverty has been significantly reduced. The country has been prudent in macroeconomic management with a strong fiscal stance and low public debts and inflation. Thailand has a friendly business environment and has been successful in attracting foreign direct investments and achieving greater diversification in manufacturing production, both in terms of higher value-added production and expansion into new emerging export markets.

“These achievements were reflected in the resiliency of the Thai economy to the recent global financial crisis, which now place Thailand in a position of opportunity to pursue stronger ties to both ASEAN and the world,” says Bhaopichitr, “For Thailand to sustain its growth and avoid the middle income trap, it needs to pay attention to raising the productivity of not only the manufacturing, but also the agriculture and services sectors. Higher levels of education and skills as well as creativity, innovation, and competition will be necessary. These would not only promote higher growth but also inclusive growth which will help reduce the persistent high income inequality in Thailand”.