Against all odds, the Thai economy has rebounded remarkably well from the twin hammer blows of the Japanese earthquake, and the flooding which inundated large segments of the country last year.
Through a combination of accommodative government policies and the strong determination and hard work of the Thai people, the country has repaired the damage, and returned to steady growth. In fact, the IMF is projecting a growth rate of 5.5% for 2012 and an even more robust rate of 7.5% for 2013.
It is however far too soon to draw a sigh of relief. This impressive return to solid growth belies the increasingly challenging global economic terrain that Thailand and all emerging markets will be forced to navigate in the months and years ahead.
In recent decades, emerging markets have benefited from what can only be described as an extremely unusual confluence of highly favourable factors.
Steady growth in the mature developed markets of the US and EU provided lucrative export markets. China's unprecedented economic development generated a seemingly insatiable demand for commodities, opportunities to supply inputs into China's export juggernaut and of course, low cost manufactured goods to satisfy the material desires of the rising middle classes.
At the same time, the US Federal Reserve kept the party going by pumping out copious amounts of liquidity, with many of these dollars finding their way into emerging markets, helping to create real estate and stock market booms from Rio to Jakarta.
In the eyes of international investors and large MNCs, emerging markets became the Flavour of the Month (or perhaps more accurately, the Flavour of the Decade). Thailand, along with its Asean neighbours, profited greatly from these favourable perceptions and the quest to find the next China.
Unfortunately, the world today is a much changed place.
Strong growth in the developed Western world now seems like a faraway dream. The US consumer _ the traditional driver of the American economy _ is confronted with stubbornly high unemployment rates, underwater household mortgages and maxed-out credit cards. As a result, the US consumer is more focused on deleveraging rather than consumption.
This process will play out over a period of years, not months, almost certainly ensuring that US growth rates will continue to be anemic.
Across the Atlantic in Europe, the prospects are perhaps even more dire.
The debt crisis which began in smaller peripheral economies is now threatening traditional EU pillars such as Spain and Italy. For the first time since its inception, governments and business are seriously considering the possibility of a partial or complete unravelling of the eurozone.
Austerity and contraction are the two most common buzzwords throughout the capitals of Europe, where restive citizens have erupted onto the streets in sometimes violent protest. In the West, these grim realities have now become the New Normal.
In Asia, the remarkable China growth story has finally hit a speed bump.
The Chinese export machine _ the primary driver of the Chinese economy _ has been battered by a combination of rising wage pressure, a less abundant labour pool and a gradual appreciation in the value of the Chinese currency.
This has dented China's vaunted cost advantage at the very time its largest export markets in the EU and US are slowing and in some cases contracting.
With 200 million jobs directly or indirectly linked to exports, such a slow-down is a serious matter indeed.
Challenges in China's financial sector could prove to be equally nettlesome. The massive Chinese stimulus, undertaken at the height of the global financial crisis, has now spawned a tsunami of non-performing loans, which will hang over the economy like a dark cloud and undermine efforts to spur growth by pumping more money into the marketplace.
Chinese policy makers who were not long ago looking for ways to cool growth and engineer a soft landing, now find themselves scrambling to once again prime the engine.
To be sure though, all this must be kept in perspective. Despite these realties, its clear that China will continue to grow at rates most countries would envy.
However, and most importantly, the days of consistent 10% growth in China and the transformative effect this growth had on its neighbours in Asean are now gone for good.
Although the US Federal Reserve continues to maintain its highly accommodative policies, the corporate and financial sectors are considerably less sanguine about taking on risk. Emerging markets can no longer count on the favourable underlying presumptions they have benefited from in the past.
The institutional shortcomings and structural weaknesses inherent in the emerging world, which were more easily overlooked during flush times, will now come under far greater scrutiny, and will generate far greater caution and modesty on the part of investors. In the immortal words of US investment guru Warren Buffet, "when the tide goes out, you can see who has been swimming without a bathing suit". Clearly, the tide has now gone out for the emerging world.
In short, Thailand will be forced to confront weakened export markets in the developed world, a slowing Chinese locomotive, less abundant foreign direct investment, and greater competition from its Asean neighbours.
As if all of this was not daunting enough, Thailand will also face increased pressure to address a number of vexing domestic economic issues, such as the need to improve worker productivity, greater urgency to restore public finances which have been stretched thin by post-flood stimulus measures and expanded social programs and lingering questions over political stability.
While all these challenges are formidable, none of this should suggest that Thailand will not be able to grow or perhaps even prosper. The country certainly has a remarkable track-record of resilience in the face of adversity, and anyone who bets against Thailand does so at his own risk. But government and business leaders should have no illusions.
The coming decade will be considerably more challenging for Thailand and other emerging markets than the previous. The Asean Economic Community in 2015 should be used as a rallying point to focus attention on addressing these challenges in a serious way, and burnishing the country's competitiveness.
Stephen Olson is managing director of the Economic Strategy Institute based in Washington DC.
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Writer: Stephen Olson