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Thailand - Government and Economy
The head of the government is the prime minister and as in the UK, it is usually the leader of the party with the majority share in the general election which takes this role. His appointment needs to be approved by the King. The PM is head of the executive branch of government and oversees the cabinet.
The cabinet comprises 35 seats. These are ministers for different departments and their deputies. There are in total 20 different ministries. The cabinet takes responsibility for forming government policy. A person does not have to be a member of parliament in order to serve on the cabinet but this is usually the case.
The legislative branch of government is the elected parliament. There are two branches to parliament. The first is the Senate and the second is the House of Representatives. Together these form the National Assembly of Thailand and they have in total more than 600 members. There are 150 members of the Senate, with each of the 76 provinces electing one member and 74 other members being selected by the Senate Selection Commission. These are both elected officials and those who are simply appointed. The Senate is there mainly to advise and oversee policy and implementation. Each person will serve 6 years in the Senate and no member is representing any political party.
The House of Representatives has 500 members. These are comprised of 375 elected officials from the constituencies in the country and the other 125 are appointed through a system of proportional representation. The members here do represent their political parties and there are 7 at the present time. This is the more powerful branch of the National Assembly and each member will serve terms of 4 years duration. The President of the National Assembly also serves as the Speaker of the house and he has 2 deputies.
In addition to this, all towns and districts have their own elected councils and officials who also serve for 4 years.
A person can only vote in Thai elections if they are a Thai citizen. If you are not a citizen by birth you must have been granted citizenship by naturalisation then wait five years for the right to vote. You must be registered as a voter within your constituency for a minimum of 90 days prior to the election and you must be at least 18 years of age. Voting is compulsory for all those who are eligible. You may be fined or receive tax penalties if you miss. There are a number of categories of people who are not eligible to vote in Thai elections. These include those of unsound mind, members of the clergy, those who are in prison or those who have simply had the privilege removed by the authorities. Both men and women over the age of 18 have the right to vote.
Thailand is one of the most recently industrialised nations. Exports make up two thirds of the country’s GDP. It is also one of the fastest growing economies in Asia and there are a number of industries which support this. The country has an automobile industry which produced more than 1.6 million cars in 2010. Tourism is another major feature of the Thai economy and this grew during 2010 also. There is an increasing amount of foreign investment in Thailand with a number of international companies establishing a base in Bangkok or one of the other major cities. Unemployment is very low in Thailand and it is expected to fall to just 1% by 2012. Inflation in 2010 rose to 3.5% but this is the highest it is expected to be for a long while, due to the stabilisation of food and oil prices.
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