The island has experienced constant growing pains this past year. Though estimates vary, waste data provides a consistent and reliable indicator that the island’s population continues to grow by 7-10 per cent annually. And with roughly a million people occupying the nation’s sole island-province at any given time, infrastructure is strained and services are in constant demand – but in short supply – as public policies and restrictive budgets struggle to keep pace.
The face and race of tourists continues to transform along with the volatility and uncertainty of domestic and international politics, but Phuket’s tourism lifeblood manages to sustain steady flow, with thousands of rooms added to the unofficial inventory, and airport passenger capacity bolstered.
Though much of the recent tourism growth has been thanks to “discount-seeking” tour groups – mostly from China – smaller high-cap niche markets continue to meet high expectations, as the outlook is looking swell for wedding, MICE, marine and “indy” traveller sectors, among others.
With more and more people coming to the island, traffic and transport issues are ever dire; safety and accountability on multiple fronts remain scarce; corruption, drug abuse and petty crime seemingly ineradicable, and the so-called economic multiplier effect from overzealous real estate and retail sectors yet to be realised.
Then there’s the Asean Economic Community, which officially begins today (Jan 1), and which aims to unify the economies of 10 Southeast Asian nations, home to some 600 million consumers, or producers, depending on which side of the coin you view.
And while we would all love the chiming of a New Year to cast our pain and woe out to sea along with our sewage – out of site and out of mind – the winds of change don’t work that way.
Progress may be slow, but it is certain. The growing pains guaranteed for at least another 10 New Years. But patience perforce, as with all things, time shall come to pass, and those who can frame challenges as opportunities, and loss as gain, will be better off in the end.