ADVANTAGES

The lower end of the standard of living scale in Thailand is set lower, but the higher end is set higher when you measure rich takings as a multiple of poor takings. The economic winners here take more of the spoils. In a much bigger market like the U.S., there could be a larger number of economic champs in a market segment. A beer brand, for example, could be a regional success and still make its founders decent coin, the way many craft breweries start out. Such a success story wouldn't arise in Thailand. A contender must be able to take on the reigning champ and offer his product throughout the country, which requires connections and likely some cash to begin with. Witness Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi's victory with Chang over previous leader Singha in the Thai beer market. Chang didn't emerge as a beer only available in Phuket that gradually expanded its markets throughout the lands. Chang went nationwide from the get go. As a result of Thailand's winner-take-all nationwide system, there is less choice and less competition in the domestic market. Want a pizza from a chain? It's either Pizza Company or Pizza Hut. Coffee? Black Canyon or Starbucks. The existence of three economies and, as a result, three different standards of living, help the visitor understand why things can be so cheap and so expensive in Thailand at the same time. In a temporary discount booth at a shopping mall in my hometown in Thailand, I found a pair of plastic clogs on sale for USD 3.

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