Tourism and the economy

18 04 2010

There have been earlier comments on the economic damage done by red shirt rallying, and PPT posted earlier on this and pointed out that there had been little impact on the economy. This might have changed with reports of the state’s violent crackdown on protesters on 10 April.

In one of our earlier posts, we questioned the estimates by the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC) of huge losses. Now the Bangkok Post (18 April 2010) reports on the same university saying that if the “anti-government rally carries on to mid-May the country could lose approximately 50 billion to 70 billion baht…”.

PPT doesn’t know if they have been reported accurately, but the same spokesman claimed a higher figure back on 26 March if the red shirt rallies went on for a month, and we assume that is from 12 March to 11 April. To now claim a lower figure for a longer period that includes the deaths and injuries of 10 April either means they are making this up or they have new data and are correcting earlier errors. We suspect, though, that the researchers are concocting stories for a political purpose.

We hasten to add that PPT believes that such rallies do have significant economic impacts, but we question the reliability of this report. Why on earth don’t reporters do any research or ask questions when they are fed contradictory information? We guess that is a rhetorical question….

Tourism is one area where a significant impact might be expected.

TIME ( April 2010) has a story on this, noting that tourism accounts for 6.5% of Thailand’s gross domestic product. It says the impact of recent events on tourism are “expected to be devastating” and they quote yellow-shirted finance minister Korn Chatikavanij who “predicted that tourist arrivals will be ‘decimated’.” With “more than 40 countries have now issued travel advisories against coming to Bangkok” declining arrivals are to be expected.

At the same time, Prakit Piriyakiet, Tourism Authority of Thailand deputy governor is reported at Asiaone (18 April 2010) as saying that “[t]rips to Chiang Mai and Bangkok failed to reach expectations” but that the “number of visitors to Phuket, Hat Yai, Samui and other major destination[s] in the South had increased by about 20 per cent compared to the same period last year.” Prakit says that the “number of visitors to Bangkok dropped by 10-12 per cent from the same three days [Songkhran] last year.” Of course, last April saw the Songkhran Uprising. Prakit said that “Nan and Sukhothai were reported crowded with many domestic tourists.”

Kongkrit Hiranyakit, who is the chairman of the Tourism Council of Thailand, “said tourism business across the country during the festival had grown by 15 to 20 per cent.” But Kongkrit was pessimestic in sprouting the government’s line: “I feel the country’s political problems will not go away soon as the government has declared there are [political] terrorists in the Kingdom…”.

Finger pointing

27 03 2010

A couple of observations from the past couple of days regarding allegations made and reported. The first relates to Thaksin, the second to Bangkok “community organizations” and the third to calculation of the economic costs caused by the red shirt rally.

In the first case, the pro-government Thai-ASEAN News Network (25 March 2010) reports on the “hunt” for Thaksin. It reports that “Montenegro has declined repatriation of Thaksin Shinawatra, claiming the fugitive ousted premier is a Montenegrin citizen there is no request from the Interpol.”

The article concludes some remarkable claims about the country, its prime minister and international crimes. PPT doesn’t have the knowledge to comment, but this claim: “Montenegro is ranked among the most corrupt countries in Europe…” can be easily checked. Essentially the claim is accurate. Most of these indices rank perceptions, and the Transparency International ranking for 2009 has Montenegro at 69th. The problem with this kind of finger-pointing accusation is that Thailand itself is ranked at 84th. Pots, kettles, glass houses….

In the second case, the television news and the media was swamped with the story of a “network of about 1,800 Bangkok community groups is calling for a swift end to the red shirt demonstrations, claiming they violate their members’ rights.”  The Bangkok Post story is here. The number of news commentaries and reports that harp on traffic problems and so on is astounding today, suggesting something of a campaign. Prachatai has helpfully pointed out the spokesman for the community groups is a member of the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

The campaign continued with a report in the Post referring to a “Businessmen for Democracy Club” attacking the red shirts. About 30  of them “rallied.” The Post says nothing about who the “club” is or who its members are. We know they have been around for some time, maybe since before 1997 and that they had links to PAD. Maybe readers can fill us in?

The third bit of finger-pointing is also widely reported. These red shirts are killing the economic recovery it seems. Well, that’s what the reports claim. The University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce is reported to have claimed that the cost might be up to 100 billion baht. Admittedly, this is said to be a worst case scenario. But if such a claim really has any credibility, exactly how much did the record setting 190+ day PAD rally really cost Thailand’s economy? And how much of the claimed 100 billion baht can be put down to the government’s scare and fear campaign associated with its attempts to discredit the red shirts?

With all the claims being made against the red shirts, watching and reading the mainstream media feels a little like being in the front row at one of those PAD rallies in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008.