And so, The Phuket News is ever-gracious that a man of such stature was able to devote an entire afternoon out of his demanding schedule for an informal heart-to-heart last Thursday at his mansion on Narasorn Road.
Three and half hours was hardly long enough to even scratch the surface of what his plans are for Phuket, but even in this short space of time Gov Maitri showed he is highly organised, analytical, efficient, proficient, task-oriented and he certainly means business.
“I will release my third handbook [since taking office in Phuket] after the Songkran holiday... It’s titled Yu Gup Ngaan and it highlights more of my philosophy on the value of a good work ethic,” he said.
Indeed, a good work ethic is foundational for success and prosperity in the realm of civics, and the governor has made this clear in his first two Phuket-authored handbooks – The Seven Wonders for a Good Working Life, and Phuket, A Land of Working Life.
If these first two publications are anything to go by, inspirational philosophy junkies are in for a treat with Gov Maitri’s third Phuket handbook, which is sure to contain more of his clever and catchy lists.
All members of the public can request their own free copies to read and learn about the island’s seven green Gs, four business Ms, seven tourism Ss, seven ‘ics’, among many more.
And though a solid philosophy is essential, it doesn’t end there for the governor, who was keen to talk openly about his specific action plans for traffic, infrastructure and the economy.
“Solving traffic problems is a top priority for the Phuket government – in the short and long term,” Gov Maitri affirmed. He then went on to outline several long-term (more than six years to complete), mid-term (three to five years completion) and short term (within two years) projects currently being prioritised.
Among the long term projects include developing mass-transit networks, both at the intra-provincial and inter-provincial scales; the four-lane fly-over that would connect Phuket Town with the Sakoo junction near the airport; the tunnel that would connect Kathu with Patong; an underpass at Chalong Circle; and a new alternative (above ground) short-cut that would connect Patong with Karon.
Mid-term projects include the B800 million underpass at the Bang Koo intersection (next to the Toyota Showroom off the bypass road); a .78 kilometre short-cut from the Chao-Fah Suan Luang junction to Muang Chao Fah; expansion of the route from Wat Tha Reua temple in Thalang to the Tin Mine Museum in Kathu, and ultimately on to the Loch Palm Golf Course.
“The success of these projects will depend on the Phuket people being able to work together in harmony as to ensure that a proper plan can be formulated,” said Gov Maitri.
“Another important factor will be the Thai government does its part to ensure that the necessary capital can be secured so that the plans can be carried out,” he said.
Short-term priorities – already under way – include completing the Central Underpass, the Tesco Lotus Underpass, Khlong Koh Pee Road and the Airport expansion – all of which are hoped to be completed by 2015, he said.
Shifting focus to social-economics, Governor Maitri said that one of his main priorities during the remainder of his tenure will be to continue to bridge the gap between Phuket’s wealthy businesspeople and rural poor – particularly the agriculturalists, many of whom are Muslim minorities.
“A quarter of Phuket’s registered populace are Muslims, most of them live in the north of the island and make their livelihood from various types of farming. If tourism is the island’s bread and butter, than these [agricultural livelihoods] are the grassroots” he said.
The Governor highlighted some of the island’s up-and-coming “agricultural communities” that he’s committed to “enhancing and promoting”; namely, the farming of pineapples, goat milk and meat, organic vegetables (especially morning glory), and rice farming.
“There’s one small, eco village in Mai Khao, on the north of Phuket, Moo [village number] four. There, there are about 69 rice farmers who’ve successfully modelled His Majesty the King’s Sufficiency Economy philosophy.”
While the Kingdom’s rice sector as a whole has been plagued with much scorn and scandal in recent times, this particular rice community in Phuket has continued to prosper, unaffected by any political agenda, Gov Maitri noted.
“And I would like to use this village as a model for other eco-tourism agricultural projects to come,” he said.
The governor went on to briefly touch upon other issues on his priority list – drug abuse among the youth, drought and water supply, and the island’s mounting garbage and waste disposal issues.
A true philosopher, the governor couldn’t help but share a few interesting analogies about his management style. “I’m like the quarterback of an American football team. Day after day, week after week, I huddle up with my team to discuss and deploy our game plan,” he said, explaining that he categorises his priorities as either “offensive or defensive”.
The offensive priorities, he explains, are “market driven... to promote tourism and goals that can be actively pursued,” while the defensive priorities include strategies and reactions to issues that arise.
These include “how to protect the environment, maintain law and order, as well as solve traffic, drought, pollution and waste water issues.” Aside from a quarterback, Governor Maitri also views his role as an “orchestra conductor”.
“Phuket is a unique island. Although the registered population is less than 400,000, in reality there are more than 900,000 people here at any given time... There are multiple opinions, stakes, interests, priorities and agendas to manage and consider.”
The governor struck an interesting chord with this analogy – sometimes, we seem to be singing a similar tune, but other times, the symphony of Phuket can seem like an utter discord.
“So my job is to ensure that the government, private and public sectors, and all stakeholders and residents can make music in harmony – that we’re all on the same page, working together for the same goals.”
With that, The Phuket News looks forward to keeping readers informed about all the progress in the island’s ongoing American football match – and playing together in symphony.
Have a question for Governor Maitree? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll ask the best ones at our next monthly sit down with him.