With Thailand posting a 17-year record drop in exports for the first quarter of 2009, and the economy shrinking by 7.1 percent as a consequence, the global downturn is clearly causing severe problems for some one-time stellar performers.
Like its Tiger Economy counterparts, Malaysia and Singapore, Thailand's exports account for a majority of the country's economic activity -- more than 60 percent in Thailand's case. Ultimately, these countries depend heavily on Western consumers buying the products they make, or the ones they make components for, depending on the particular industry and local position in the globalized manufacturing chain.
Given their level of openness, and therefore vulnerability, to global economic conditions, perhaps the muting of the Tigers' roar is not that much of a shock. More surprising, however, was a recent assessment by Ajay Chibbber, former World Bank economist and now the United Nations Development Program's Asia-Pacific head. "For the first time," Chibber told the Financial Times, "there is the possibility that South Asia may have higher growth than East Asia."