Land ownership

14 09 2010

As regular readers know, PPT has frequently commented on the wealth of the royal family. One of the prime sources of the crown’s stupendous wealth is land. PPT has also previously posted on landed wealth.

The Phuket Gazette has a relevant story on land ownership in Phuket, where the Democrat Party rules the political roost, with close relations to wealthy businesspeople there. (See PPT’s recent post on Phuket.) It says that landownership in the province “is highly concentrated in the hands of a relatively small group of wealthy landowners.

Thammasat University economics professor Duangmani Laowakul says that “the top 50 largest landholders in Phuket control 14.3% of the island’s total area.” While the report states the unlikely statistic that “90% of individuals own less than one rai of land, while 10% own 100 rai or more” – unlikely because there must be some who own >1 and 99 rai or less – the trend is clear. And, it is clear nationwide. What is perhaps more interesting is that the National Thai Institute of Land says that “some 70% of private land holdings lie idle, held only for purposes of speculation. This costs the economy 127 billion baht yearly…”.

In Bangkok, “the top 50 landowners in Bangkok own 10.1% of the land in the capital.” While the economist agreed that the these “figures may not appear large, … they add up to a lot of land…”. PPT wonders if the Crown Property Bureau and royal family is included in this list. We doubt that the Land Department is about to provide names of landowners.

Politicians, of course, are meant to declare their assets: “According to the National Counter Corruption Commission, filings by politicians in the last four governments, beginning with that of Thaksin Shinawatra, reveal that ‘ten former officials hold land valued at more than five billion baht… and that doesn’t include holdings they haven’t revealed, which we expect is an amazing amount’.”

Politician might be forced to be more transparent and be subject to moral outrage from the middle class, but what about the business elite? This note caught PPT’s eye a few days ago: “A well-known Thai housing estate developer recently reaped a handsome Bt3-billion profit after selling a big chunk of shares in his listed property firm. He did not pay any tax on his massive windfall profit – which raises serious questions about the fairness of this loophole to society at large.”

And what about the royals?Is there ever going to be any transparency for the royal family that Forbes ranks as the world’s wealthiest?



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