Thailand is booming economically, and Carl Berrisford (analyst for UBS CIO Wealth Management Research) thinks this is a sustainable boom (not a boom & bust).
The main reasons for his positive prediction for Thailand’s economy:
- increased political stability
- a major government infrastructure spending program
- total around ~1.9 trillion baht, with the peak of the spending outlays occurring in 2016-17
- mainly BKK mass transit system
- 4 new high-speed rail routes
- extending capacity of Suvarnabhumi airport
- road & rail projects
- – all this has led to housing boom in Bangkok
- record levels of inbound tourism
- mainly Chinese tourists and Asean nationalities (visa-free entry to Thailand)
- opening of Myanmar 2012 also increases Bangkok’s importance as regional flight hub
- Japan yen is cheap now, so Japan wants to extend its supply chain and raise export capacity in Asean markets
- lots of Japanese investments into carmaking and electronics sectors
- Thailand public debt-to-GDP ratio is 44%
- household income is rising (partly due to minimum wage rises)
Every year there is at least one piece in the news about how many centimeters Bangkok is sinking every year. Currently the number is three centimeters. Every year scientists urgently point out how important it is to do something now.
Scientist Art-Ong Jumsai, former Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and currently Director of the Institute for Sathya Sai Education, has been warning successive Thai governments about the problem for years. But he says his dire predictions have fallen on deaf ears.
New buildings aren’t in as much danger as the older ones, because their foundations reach deep into the ground, but…
“The ancient buildings are in greater danger because they don’t have the foundations,” Jumsai explains. “Many temples are having problems because the water has come up and is encroaching on them. In Ban Khun Tian which is a part of Bangkok one temple is in the middle of the sea with the water level right up. So they have already lost the lower level of the temple itself.”
Now scientists are urging the government to take action, but there are different opinions how to actually protect Bangkok effectively. In the meantime, more shopping malls and skyscrapers keep popping everywhere in Bangkok.
There’s an interesting article about water shortages and the economics of Songkran festival in the Bangkok post. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) thinks that during the five-days of this famous festival more than 11 billion baht (around 378 million US Dollar) will be generated for the tourism industry, and 100 million baht (around 3,4 million USD) at Khao San Road alone.
On April 13 last year, people in Bangkok, Nonthaburi and Samut Prakan provinces consumed an additional 100,000 cubic metres of water _ presumably for splashing to celebrate Songkran. According to the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority (MWA), that amount of water was added to the tap water system. For the sake of comparison, that amount of water would need 8,333 12-tonne trucks for storage. If those 8,333 trucks lined up, the total length would be 100km _ the distance from Bangkok to Sara Buri province.
People in Bangkok are getting a bit jittery about a possible flood threat (several streets have been flooded for a couple of hours after heavy rainfall). People are building floodbarriers around Bangkok.
But as Bangkok Pundit pointed out:
Major reason 4 severe sustained flooding in 2011, was not just months of excess rainfall, but large amount of water released from dams.
In 2012, because of better management of water in dams, they r able to significantly reduce the discharge of water during monsoon season
For Sirikit Dam, in 2011, 45 million cu/m of water was discharged per day for Sep1-Nov1. For Sep1-19 2012, we r down to 4 mcu/m per day
For Bhumibol Dam, in 2011, 44 million cu/m of water was discharged per day for Sep1-Nov1. For Sep1-19 2012, we r down to 3 mcu/m per day
These r the two largest dams so u can see that reducing the discharge of water reduces water flowing downstream. Of course, we r still
going 2 have flash floods when there is excess rainfall (as in Bkk recently) over short period of time, but rain stops, water drains away
Obviously, we need to keep an eye on the weather, but BP stills see no signs of a severe flood approaching 2011 levels
There are plenty of opportunities for investors, but also plenty of opportunities to sink your money. Many things to consider, must do thorough market research before, sometimes countries that might seem attractive can later turn sour because of banking issues (Vietnam for example has a 18% interest rate and a 20% inflation).
Regarding Myanmar: looks good, but unpredictable government policy, changing political situation. Poor infrastructure. Weak enforcement of laws and regulation. Unreliable banking.
Manila: fast growing office sector (driven by outsourced service centers & call centers). Low vacancy rate in business districts (4,3%). Investment yield in Philippines: 6.6% (compared to 3-4% in Bangkok). Downside: lack of good mass transit system.
Jakarta: robust growth in retail, condo and office sector. According to Suphin Mechuchep (managing director of Jones Lang LaSalla Thailand) most attractive Asian property investment market. ROI for condos: 6-8%, sector driven by real buyers, not speculators.
Singapore: still room for porperty investment, but prices very high.
From the article Property developers air their gripes (Bangkok Post):
Thongchai Busrapan, president of the listed developer Noble Development Plc, said the property market will be good this year, but regulations, down payments and price supports will hamper growth.
Developers believe Bangkok’s new city plan follows the US model, where it tries to reduce urban density.
Thailand’s floor-area ratio (FAR) determines how many square metres a building can have, meaning a 1:10 ratio allows one sq m of land to develop 10 sq m of building.
“Thailand should have superblocks or more flexible FAR zoning, with higher FAR near public transportation to attract property development,” Mr Thongchai told a property seminar yesterday.
He suggested FAR rights be transferrable. For example, a high-rise project owner could buy FAR from a nearby neighbour who owns a smaller building with remaining FAR.
A required minimum of parking spaces should also be revised, as in some locations such as close to mass transit parking spaces are unnecessary.
Assoc Prof Noppanan Tapananon, a city planning expert, said the plan was designed for the benefit of the city even if some developers disagreed with requirements such as road width.
The Finance Ministry predicts the property market will grow by 5.2% this year, in line with expected GDP growth of 5.5%, assuming stable politics.
Anant Asavabhokhin, the president of Land and Houses Plc, said property developers should not focus on road width or changes to the new city plan, as there are many other attractive property businesses available for investment.
“Retail is less competitive and more interesting due to the lack of spaces and a monopoly controlled by a handful of operators. We must break that barrier preventing suppliers from opening new shops at other retail areas,” said Mr Anant, who developed Terminal 21 shopping mall on Sukhumvit Road.
There are plans to close the BTS Station Saphan Taksin. Many people (including myself) wonder why they would want to do that, especially since it’s such a convenient and fast way to get from the city to the Chao Praya river express.
If these plans are pushed through, then passengers who want to get the the river will have to get out at the BTS Station Surasak and walk to the river.
Moving Walkway To The River?
They say they will install a moving walkway to the river (the distance is about 700 meters). If they actually create a good, comfortable moving walkway in both directions things probably won’t be as bad as they seem at first.
It’s been known and occassionally reported on that laborers are enslaved on fish trawlers in Thailand for a couple of years already. But this is the first time I really read about it in-depth, Patrick Winn has published several articles under the title “Seafood Slavery”.
It’s not just Thailand – even the developed nation of New Zealand with their claims of much-lauded environmental efforts to keep waters healthy and fish stocks sustainable has slave labor on fishing tralwers – but that doesn’t make it any better.
It’s mostly Cambodian or Burmese workers who want to work in Thailand. Human smugglers sell them to captains of fish trawlers in Thailand, and once they’re on a trawler, they’re pretty much at the mercy of the caption. Murder is common, working conditions grueling.
There are reports of people working for years without pay – and finally getting killed and thrown over board because the captain can save money that way. It’s the open sea, nobody’s gonna know.
Read more about it:
Here’s an article about rental properties and their ROI in BKK:
Rental yields remained largely unchanged in the first quarter of this year in the downtown Bangkok condominium market, ranging from 3% to 9%, despite prices for new properties rising and no significant growth in the number of expatriate tenants.
Gross yield is the annual rental return compared to the capital value of the property before deducting operating costs and allowing for taxation. The average gross yield of letting transactions was 6% in the first quarter, but there was a wide range from 3% up to 9%.
Location is one of the most important drivers of yield. Investors need to understand which locations expatriate tenants prefer. Yields have remained steady in the downtown market, with the most popular expatriate rental areas being Sukhumvit up to Soi 63 (Ekamai), Lumpini and Sathorn.
The downtown rental market is mainly driven by expatriates. Based on our rental transactions in the first quarter of this year, there were virtually no Thai lettings at this market level. Within the expatriate market, certain nationalities have specific preferences in terms of facilities and unit features. Japanese tenants are by far the largest expatriate tenant market, making up 30% of CBRE’s transactions, followed by Americans (15%), Germans (13%) and Australians (8%).
In terms of unit type, some of the best yields that have been achieved recently are in new one-bedroom units that are well furnished and located right next to skytrain stations on Sukhumvit. But this trend may not continue as the supply of new one-bedroom units will grow significantly over the next two years.
The survey also showed that the most active rental markets are in the two- and three-bedroom sector in the preferred downtown locations. Thirty-nine percent of CBRE’s first-quarter condominium rental deals were for two-bedroom units and 25% for three-bedroom units.
Vacancy rates in condominium buildings varies. Some buildings have vacancy rates of less than 10% of available units while others, usually older, poorly maintained buildings, more than 50% of available rental units are vacant. There are, however, some older buildings in popular locations where the owners have redecorated their units to make them attractive with well managed and upgraded common areas that continue to attract tenants.
For example, as tenants have a fixed monthly lump-sum budget, some would rather spend their budget on a larger unit in an older building than a small unit in a new building. Let’s take an example of a tenant with a 50,000 baht budget who needs a two-bedroom unit. He may choose a 130 sq m unit in an older building where the unit can be bought at 60,000 baht per sq m, providing investors with a gross yield of 7.7%. Alternatively, the same tenant might choose to spend 50,000 baht on a more modern and better-located unit of, say, 80 sq m. The price of the new unit could be around 100,000 baht per sq m, providing a gross yield of 7.5%.
As sales prices per square metre for older buildings are often 50% lower than in recently completed buildings, investors should not ignore investment opportunities in older but well managed buildings, particularly those with upgraded common areas and units that have been redecorated as these can offer good value to investors.
all this data is based CBRE’s company’s letting transactions for the last quarter.
Even though the investigations of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) initially didn’t look like they’d actually be able to reveal anything the military didn’t want revealed, they now published a report that states that the army may be responsible for killing at least 25 people during the red shirt protests of 2010 in Bangkok.
Here’s the conclusion the DSI report came to:
- 25 deaths: military
- 12 deaths: red-shirt UDD
- 52 deaths: unknown
You can read the whole story in the Bangkok Post.
A tsunami warning has been issued for provinced along the west-coast of Thailand following a strong earth-quake (8.9 on Richter skala) in Aceh, Indonesia. Al Jazeera has set up a live-blog where you can follow updates.
And the fastest way to get news is of course Twitter (but at the same time lots of unconfirmed rumors and false info, so take it with a grain of salt). As of now, seems’s there no hash-tag yet, but just head over to Twitter and search for tsunami.
While Toshiba is planning to build a new plant (because the old one got damaged during the floods of 2011), this time in a different, less flood-prone location, 32 provinces in Thailand are now suffering from drought.
Meanwhile, the Thai Ministry of Transport is promising free car inspections till April 12. Why? Because they want to reduce the number of accidents on Thailand’s roads during the songkran festival season.
More people die on Thailand’s road during the four-day holiday than during a comparable time-frame in war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
That’s a pretty bad statistic, and if you want the concrete numbers, there are here:
During the seven deadly days of Songkran, last year, road accidents killed 271 people nationwide, down 24.93% compared to 361 deaths in 2010, according to the Road Safety Centre data. However, that is the official count and government officials are notorious for fluffing their counts.
During last year’s celebrations road accidents dropped 8.56% from 3,516 to 3,215 accidents. Also, the number of injuries also dropped by 8.57% or from 3,802 to 3,476 injuries.
The single most common cause of fatalities? Drunk driving.
Apart of that, the Thai Finance Ministry raises its growth forecast to around 5.5% (up from 5% earlier this year) and predicted that interest rates will raise.
Thailand’s finance minister, said […] the baht should weaken to a range of 32 to 34 a dollar to help exporters. The currency traded at 30.78 today.
However, whether that’s based on plans or wishful thinking is not clear.
And the World Bank has released a report that states that skills shortages have become Thailand’s biggest obstacle to doing business and they’ve published a couple of recommendations on how to improve this situation.
The name Chaleo Yoovidhya probably doesn’t mean much to you. But he’s the original founder of the Red Bull energy drink, together with his Austrian business partner Dietrich Mateschitz.
Born into a poor farmer’s family, he later in life went to work in Bangkok as a bus conductor before he started to get into business. His rise to fortunes reads unlikely, and has all the ingredients of a typical rags-to-riches story. What’s more, despite being Thailand’s third richest man with an estimated fortune of $5 billion, he lived a rather reclusive life and prefered to spend time with his family. Read more about him here.
Thailand’s economy is strongly intertwined with the Chinese economy, and now that the Chinese economy seems to slow down, this has also had an effect on the Thai baht, you can read more about it here.
Four civilians got killed on January 29, 2012 in Southern Thailand (Ban Kayi in tambon Bulo Puyo of Nong Chik district). Now the army admitted that the rangers were at fault. You can read more about this case here, but the positive thing to take away from it is that the army accepted responsibility and admitted being wrong – which wasn’t very common, as many people would argue, just a couple of years ago.
As the death toll of the flood reaches 224 people, Al Jazeera has a video on their website called Thailand hit by worst monsoon in 50 years, which isn’t very informative, but gives you an impression of what it’s currently like in many cities of Thailand.
Thailand still hasn’t joined the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and is now being called to do so. It’s the first international court that is able to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide and currently has 118 member states.
Read more: THAILAND: Global Coalition calls on Thailand to join the International Criminal Court
The Thai government has published several reports on human rights issues in Thailand, including the problems in violent Southern Thailand.
These reports differ drastically from reports published by NGOs. These differences will be discussed at the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday.
Given the widespread inability among Thai officials to admit mistakes, and to take credit for imaginary accomplishments, this isn’t surprising, but it’s nice that someone shines the spotlight on it.
Read more about it:
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders, is shutting down their operations in Bangkok. One of the main reasons is that the government obstructed their work – which is a shame.
If you’ve been in the region where they operate, you’ll see that NGOs are needed there, and MSF is a secular organization, which is nice since many organizations there not just bring help, but also try to find new converts for their own religion, mainly Christianity.