Bangkok is the center of Thailand's economy and the country's principal port. Bangkok is the country's financial center, home to over one-third of Thailand's banks, as well as the Bangkok Stock Exchange. Thailand's basic unit of currency is the baht, with the exchange rate at approximately 40 baht per U.S.$1.
Most of the factories in Bangkok are small, many of them family-owned. Food processing, textiles, and the production of building materials are the chief manufacturing enterprises. Other industries include cement, electronics, petroleum refining, and tourism.
Bangkok is a major regional city, but it has begun seeking foreign investment in an effort to increase its importance internationally. Recent events, however, have undermined this effort. Bangkok's crime rate remains high, with foreigners often the targets of violence, and widespread corruption continues to plague many business ventures. To make matters worse, the country is suffering through a severe and lingering recession. In the mid-1990s, the Thai economy virtually collapsed, with exports drying up and many banks hurt by bad loans and uncollected debt. Thailand's collapse helped trigger a financial crisis that engulfed nearly all of Asia. In August 1997, the Thai government applied for and received IMF loans. (The IMF, International Monetary Fund, is an organization that promotes worldwide economic stability.) In return for $14 billion of assistance, the country agreed to a series of banking and market reforms.