Bangkok 2018, Another Perspective
Get too close to something and we lose focus and objectivity, our senses can easily become overwhelmed. We laugh that the Thais who think/believe their country is the centre of the universe – and now it almost appears from his recent weekly that Stick has been infected with a similar kind of thinking. Thailand used to be a special place, that we all know and would agree with, but it’s no longer the case and – as Stick’s reports keep pointing out to us week after week, Thailand has not only lost a lot of its charm but has also suffered greatly from negative reports in the international media.
I intend to argue that Thailand’s fortunes over the last 50 years have not been due to hard work, planning and foresight but rather being in the right place at the right time. I’ll say more about that in a moment, but for the future I expect that (like everywhere else!) this country needs to really get its act together if it wants to continue its good fortune. There is a certain attitude many complain of on the lines of ‘on our terms, in our country, if and when we are ready and you’re lucky to be here’, etc., which goes against the ‘friendly people’ in ‘land of smiles’ promised by the brochures. Are our hosts capable or willing to change their attitudes and put in the hard work, I wonder? Hmm . . . But their future may well depend on it if they want to keep raking in the tourist dollars.
Concerning the recent increases in the value of the baht, we know that it has been the western currencies’ weaknesses that have largely been responsible so far, and the Bank of Thailand has for many months been under extreme pressure to trash the baht against a falling US$. These efforts will continue. Thailand simply cannot afford to see its currency rise against those of the countries it exports to and it is competing, along with other countries, in a ‘race to the bottom’ to regain its international competitiveness. That will intensify.
There is a wicked game that goes on in the first world that only the major economies can play. They print money and extend credit thereby inflating first their own economy, asset prices and stocks, thereby inflating the world economy. Just whether they have gone too far this time we’re about to find out, but as the old saying goes ‘the weakest go to the wall first’. Don’t expect that Thailand is going to benefit economically from what’s going on. Expect the baht to fall this year – and then expect inflationary pressures (already here) to increase dramatically. World-wide. The world’s monetary system is facing enormous pressures due to excessive money creation that is still continuing. Now it’s payback time, a severe world recession is on the way and with it will go Thailand export markets and high spending tourists.
To get an idea of a country's future, look at its past. Thailand was dragged from 3rd world poverty into the 20th century when the US came over and ploughed $Millions into the economy and infrastructure in readiness for the Vietnam war. The Americans then went on to bomb their Asian neighbours into oblivion. After the war, and with all that infrastructure in place, massive foreign investment in manufacturing industries flowed into Thailand. The boom was on! Thailand became the manufacturing base for South-East Asia. Cap that with the tourist $Billions that have been flowing in for the last 15 years or more and you have a perfect scenario to explain Thailand’s current economic fortunes. The eastern seaboard is Thailand’s biggest (only?) industrial area <There is a major industrial area north of Bangkok, including much of Ayuthya – Stick>, from Bangkok to Sattahip (the former US Naval base). It was the US who put in all the infrastructure: refineries, power generation, the huge airport at Utapao and the many seaports, which were all subsequently handed to the Thais on a silver platter in return for ‘favours’ to the US war machine.
Thailand has been the recipient of – and has been sustained by – massive amounts of foreign capital over the last 50 years. The Thai attitude that we get so pissed off with arose because our hosts have got some crazy, mixed up idea that they themselves were solely responsible for becoming the only semi-developed country in the region! As if!! But now, Thailand’s ‘Golden Age’ has come to an end. What the Lord giveth, he can just as easily take away. Let’s see if they can maintain the arrogant look in the future. The unfolding monetary crisis is going to wreck this place. You ain’t seen nothing yet!
Consider: What does Thailand have to show for all these years of foreign benevolence? A proper legal system? Do Thai citizens enjoy equal justice before the law? Is there a thriving middle class? Is there a corruption free and fair government? How about transparency in business and opportunity for ordinary Thais? Does the country have an honest, reliable police force? Is there a strong moral code and work ethic in place? How about an accessible education system to enable ordinary people to gain the skills necessary to compete with the outside world? Need I go on?
Thailand behaves like a rogue African state. It is already grouped in the bottom league with its neighbours the Laotians, Burmese, Cambodians and Vietnamese. Thais are renowned and disliked in the region for snubbing their noses at their less fortunate neighbours. But how does Thailand compare with tier two, Taiwan, Korea and the like? Then the top South East Asian economies of Hong Kong and Singapore – where it’s a different world! I don’t see anything positive in the future for the majority of Thais outside areas such as tourism, the sex industry and the export of rice, coconuts, chicken and shrimp. I’m not forgetting vehicle assembly or the electronics industries because they are here mainly to exploit the plentiful, cheap and unskilled labour.
Stick, no-one will be smiling in 2018 – because they weren’t smiling too much in 1998 either. The same scams will still be in operation as they always were. Non-existent customer service, bare-faced lies and infuriating inefficiencies . . . It’ll all be just the same, just as you tell it, just as it always was . . . It was only our over-enthusiasm at being let loose in this adult adventure park made us initially blind to that. Yet you imagine a high cost economy where taxi drivers and restaurants can pick and choose their customers? Remember, a country stands or falls on its performance and its ability to pay its way in the world and to inspire confidence in investors! Show me any of that if you can!!
Unless Thailand can host another Asian war I can’t see it doing particularly well in the future. Not the way things are done here!
When that taxi driver drops his price and has a pleading look in his eyes, I’ll reply with a buttery Thai smile, give him a “Mai mee, khrap” and F*ing walk . . . With a lightness of step and a happy tune on my lips. It was a while in coming but it finally arrived.
These words make a classic quote. "only our over-enthusiasm at being let loose in this adult adventure park made us initially blind to that."
I too hold fears for the future of the world economy – and Thailand, given its huge reliance on exports and inbound tourism, i.e. money from abroad, has more to lose than most. Throw a couple more issues into the mix – you know what I am talking about and farangs resident in Thailand should prepare for a hell of a ride!