Isan is Thailand’s largest region, covering 33% of Thailand’s surface. However, it is the poorest area in Thailand. It only contributes 10% to Thailand ‘s GDP. Lots of people in Isan still live in wooden houses, teenagers are forced to quit their study to work. There are two main reasons leading to poverty in Isan:
1) insufficient investment
Due to a ‘Bangkok-centric policy’, most of the expenditures focus on Bangkok. Bangkok contributes for around 26% to Thailand’s GDP. But, the Thai government’s expenditures for Bangkok is over 70%. With such policy, Isan doesn’t have much capital to develop for example a better educational system. Teenagers from Isan can only do labour work or farm work because they do not have enough professional skills. Therefore, their income stays lower than other more developed parts, such as Bangkok.
In addition, Isan is not sufficiently developed to cover industry and attract tourism. Isan lacks developed public transports, medical services and financial services. Those are some of the reasons that cause an unfriendly business environment. As a result, farming is still the primary sector in the Isan economy. Secondly, the natural riches of Isan are not accessible for tourists because there are no paths, no viewpoints and no guides. Per example, Isan’s traditional festival, called ‘the Rocket Festival’, is barely promoted. Knowing all this, it is not surprising that Isan only produces 2.9% of Thailand’s tourism income.
Another reason to the poverty in Isan is its climate. Droughts and floodings are pretty common. Rainfall is unpredictable and can be heavy. The average annual rainfall is 2000mm. Rainfall occurs only for a couple of months, and in those wet periods there is basically heavy rain everyday. On the other hand, the dry season is filled with abrasive droughts. Those extreme seasons reduce the length of any farming activity. Crop failure is not rare in Isan due to its climate. Also, with the global warming in mind, an even more unstable climate will probably affect agriculture and farmers’ income even worse.
To sum it up, Isan’s poor situation stems from a lack of investment in the region, resulting in a business and tourist unfriendly environment. This, in combintation with a harsh climate, makes it hard for Isan’s main economical sector, agriculture, to flourish. The result is that Isan drops behind in a continuously developing Thailand.