The Shortest Straw
During my last stay in Thailand last April, while I was waiting for my driver at Khon Kaen Airport to take me to my hotel, and without anything better to do, I was paying attention to a speech by some big shot in Thailand (I don’t want to refer any names but this really was a big shot) broadcasted on TV. I think Channel 3 or 7. I can’t remember.
A big speech about the past, present and future of modern Thailand and what was to be expected for the Kingdom in the coming decades. Luckily it had subtitles in English and I could follow it. My attention started to pique when he referred about modern Thailand version 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0.
Accordingly to him, version 1.0 of modern Thailand was when they have started to buy hard machinery to help farmers what I call the agricultural revolution in modern times and that period was around the 70’s and 80’s.
Version 2.0 was the present (or the recent past) and was about building infrastructure like the Skytrain, Airport, MRT, all the big malls in Bangkok and other major cities in Thailand, etc. Calling the foreign investment to the Kingdom to build factories and improving the economic growth, what we can call a modern industrial revolution during the 90’s until now.
In version 3.0, the next step to the future starting right away is all about giving the Thai people more income to have a better life. It’s the rise of the medium class. Better jobs and better income for generations to come. That is what we can call a new era in Thailand, expecting the increasing of the services sector and turning Thailand in to a (more) developed country. According to him, this could take the next 20 years or so.
Obviously I already forgot most of the things he said but with the new changes I saw in Thailand during my stay I think he’s talking seriously about this issue.
Let’s take a look at the new BTS purple line, linking the city center with Don Meuang Airport and extending to Rangsit. It’s expected to finish in the next 2 – 3 years. What we think is already a huge city will grow a lot more and expand its borders up towards Ayutthaya. I already saw the planned new lines (most of them starting in the near future) and they will link the city center to places where most of us only heard others talk about.
The recent crackdown of the stall vendors in Sukhumvit and Siam is not innocent. They want to clean the city center first and make it the so-called business center in the future. The same with the visa crackdown as Mr. Stickman wrote about in recent weeks, although I think his projection tends to be a bit exaggerated. It will get tighter, but they will not immediately shutdown such possibility.
Thai authorities have big plans for the future of the Kingdom and most foreigners there don’t meet their new standards (or should I say, needs). That doesn’t mean the poor Thai will disappear soon and all the foreigners will be kicked out. Like he said, it will take around 20 years to finish version 3.0 of Thailand. I think with these reforms in the administration of the Kingdom we will look to a natural selection of those who will stay and those who will leave to neighbouring countries like Cambodia, Laos or Myanmar (yes, they are making life easier to the retirees, mostly those who are leaving Thailand by their own feet).
Centering attention only in Thailand is a common mistake to most of the beholders. But if we look to the politics regarding visas in the neighboring countries and we think a bit about them we easily conclude they want to keep the lefties that Thailand is throwing away and improve their own economics with foreign money like Thailand made last century with success.
The new Thailand will not have space for the naughty life most of us knew in the recent past. It will be probably the next crackdown. It’s well known I projected a crackdown in the bar industry since 2014 and it didn’t happen yet, and worst, no signs of it happening in the near future. That doesn’t mean authorities will not try to stop or reduce such activities in places like Patpong, Soi Cowboy or Nana Plaza.
What we can expect of the future of Thailand? Welfare and health benefits for everyone? Big salaries for the new generations to come? Let’s get real! Thailand is not Singapore … yet! We are assisting the rising of a new social class, the medium class as we know in the west, a thing that in the last 20 years was only a mirage. With more money to spend and better education are they well prepared to be the future of Thailand? Or will they behave like the new rich class and waste money they don’t have? Making debt and living on a fantasy world like we are living in Europe right now.
Thai society needs to get mature first. Joop khao! That will take a long time to achieve. What do I see now? A new class looking forward to spending money on small luxuries they couldn’t afford in the past. This new class, most of them office workers in the city center, have money to spend. It believe most Thais behave like spoiled brats, even in their 30’s or 40’s. I think is genetics working. First they need to learn the responsibility of having money to spend. Each baht of debt they make in the bank is country debt they are creating in their economy as well. Such money, everyone will pay with their taxes. If the level of debt grows until a certain level, taxes will rise as well. This is the market reality. They want welfare and health benefits in the future? Sure taxes will rise as well. We already see it in the west year after year.
Thailand has prosperity in the future and there’s an urgent need to stop the corruption levels we see every day. That is the biggest and the hardest problem to solve and I don’t hear the authorities worried to stop it.
Where will we foreigners fit in this new society? If you have money you are welcome. If not, try to live in some other places like Cambodia or Myanmar. Basic economics! In fact we will have the shortest straw on this matter. Visas will get tighter criteria what will cause an influx of many, if not the majority, of the foreigners living in Thailand by means of precarious visas. But it’s not all bad news. It’s expected when Thai society gets mature that the ones who had chosen to live in Thailand will have much better conditions of living than we all have now.
But living in Bangkok will be a plus? I, personally, will not consider living in Bangkok or any major city in Thailand. I would rather live in a small town in Isaan or outside Bangkok than living with the rush hour and traffic jam every day and every hour. Once I lived for a short time near Don Meuang Airport and I decided to go to Samut Songkran to visit Maeklong Market. I left the house I was living in at around 6:30 in the morning on the way to city center and it took an enormous amount of time (let’s say more than an hour) to reach a place close to the city center. Once arrived there I took a mini-van to a place closer to Samut Songkran, where I changed to another mini-van that finally took me to Maeklong Market. I arrived there around 10:30. It took around 4 hours to make an easy 100 km ride. That delay was caused by the heavy traffic jams even early in the morning and the poor public transportation options. On my way back I took a different route and different transport options and I saved 1:30 hours, even so a long travel, but more close to normality. I should have taken a car instead.
This decision to build new BTS lines to serve those outside the city center came as a late decision although such lines will represent a big investment and yes, a line serving Don Meuang Airport is importany and really needed. It will save time to a lot of people who wish to travel via Don Meuang Airport. This will be a good theme for an upcoming weekly column in the future, Mr. Stickman. Talking about the mass transport needed for such a huge metropolis like Bangkok. <I will attack this subject next year. What I see is all of the new skytrain and underground lines causing even greater congestion on the already crowded trains and a *desperate* need for train frequency to be increased and carriages to be added – Stick>
One last word for us foreigners currently living in Thailand or considering the option to live in Thailand in the future. I don’t know of any society that has not changed during a period of time, be that period of time 1 year or 20 years. Adapting to change is a must and stop whining is mandatory. For those who are still active with a steady job and far from retirement like me it would be a challenge to watch all the new changes and make the proper adjustments to adapt in the future. For those who are currently retired in Thailand will be a bigger challenge to see how resilient they will be because more changes to come and not only regarding visas.
I have the feeling when it comes to live in Thailand and wanting to have the same rights as the natives, the shortest straw was pulled by you. You are the weakest part. We foreigners have the right to spend money but don’t have so many benefits. We can’t even buy land. Our money is only to spend. Would anyone consider investing in land or a condo in Thailand? It will never be yours … and to be “yours” you need to be married with a Thai and put everything in her name. That’s not a deal, it’s a donation!
Even the Elite card option is only an option to wealthy people who are not counting them money. Let’s be honest would someone living on a 1 M – 1.5 M baht yearly consider spending money in such a visa? We are talking in a small portion of foreigners because I believe most of them have yearly incomes below 1M baht. And even a small portion will live on a yearly 1,5M baht and above. The Elite Card, like the name tells us, is a card made for the Elite, for the ones who are loaded with cash. When I retire I don’t want to live the whole year in Thailand so for me the METV visa is ok. It’s not my intention to live more than 6 months abroad and even in Thailand I will surely travel around South-East Asia. I love my country but in winter time I will surely appreciate the warm weather of South-East Asia.
The author can be contacted at : email@example.com