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Phuket Opinion: As reasonable as it gets

PHUKET: The call by leading Phuket tourism figures for the central government to allow the island’s tourism industry restart itself from Oct 1 is as reasonable as it gets. All they are asking is for 70% of the island’s residents to be vaccinated first, and even then the island’s key business figures are looking to do much that by themselves.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 7 February 2021, 09:00AM

As Dr Chayanon Pucharoen, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies at the PSU Phuket Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism, has pointed out, the number of people in Phuket being pushed under the poverty line is growing.

Research by his faculty had indicated “that it is highly likely for people in Phuket to receive about B1,984 per month from February to September this year, while the national poverty line is about B3,004 per month.”

The damage already done to the island’s tourism industry has been devastating, and the cracks are showing. Crime is on the rise, the number of people turning out for the much-needed private charity efforts to provide food continue to grow, and as this week showed the frustration of losing a job as just a parcel delivery man spilled over to violence.

The news that the government itself is reviewing the criteria to expand who should be able receive benefits under the Rao Chana (“We Win”) government subsidy campaign is almost tacit recognition that all the campaigns so far have not brought the benefits believed. The simplest, most sought after, benefits are those that help people pay their household bills and buy daily necessities. Travel even within the country seems a long way off.

One point raised at the meeting where the “Phuket First October” announcement was made was that it seems to have been forgotten how many ancillary industries Phuket supports even off-island. Officials in the capital have being blowing so hard and for so long that Phuket is a “world-class tourism destination” that they seem to have forgotten what it took to support a tourism industry that catered to millions of tourists a year.

In addition to the 40,000 or so workers who left the island jobless after the lockdown now nine months ago, all the farmers and other fresh produce providers in neighbouring provinces who can no longer sell their wares to Phuket hotels and restaurants are now suffering. All the businesses needed to keep the tourism wheels turning have also been hard hit.

For some reason the government is being quiet on just how much is not being collected in taxes, a factor that will hit the taxpayers hard when the economy does start trundling forward again.

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The initial plan was for the Thai government to borrow B1 trillion to get over the COVID hump. By August last year that figure blew out to B1.66trn. Exactly what that figure is today remains hidden by the plethora of campaigns being announced.

However, a report by Oxford Policy Management Ltd for Unicef in July last year pointed out that “Phase 1” of the “Phased stimulus package” that made headlines at the time – circa Mar 4,2020 – was supposed to see “Thai baht (THB) 100 billion (US$ 3.2 billion), providing financial assistance to small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), as well as tax relief and cash handouts.”

That didn’t happen.

Also, the report specifically marked as “Tourism sector targeted aid” with the note, “Up to THB 100 billion in soft loans for tourism operators, while debt suspensions and interest rate reductions can be requested by those who do not need fresh funds.”

That also simply has not happened.

Now all Phuket’s tourism – and other business – leaders are asking for is to be allowed to go ahead and restart the island’s economy by themselves, and they are asking seven months ahead of the planned deadline day.

If that is not a gift for the “Bangkok deciders”, to be able to stand aside and do nothing and perhaps later try to claim some glory for any success the reopening of tourism to Phuket might have, it’s hard to tell exactly what is.

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skip | 14 February 2021 - 23:57:37

this is only going to end when one country like sweden stands up and says NO to the tyrany being enforced on us by the WHO  and the CDC. let the public freely interact until herd immunity is achieved just like all previous pandemics. let nature run its course. then get on with life and enjoy freedom. the current cure is doing more damage than the virus !!

LALALA | 11 February 2021 - 15:01:08

Thus, according to director of the program in emerging infectious diseases of the National University of Singapore Linfa Wang, it is possible to say that the virus was imported to China’s Wuhan from somewhere else. «It’s almost impossible to imagine this virus came from Wuhan,» he stated earlier.

LALALA | 11 February 2021 - 15:00:11

AN international group of scientists has discovered traces of the SARS-CoV-2 strain in bats dwelling outside China.

LALALA | 11 February 2021 - 14:56:55

Useless panik. This Virus is a hoax and around us since many years already. Someone here should google Wolfgang Wodark and his statement on the un validated german covid test by poster boy Drosten. In this context....

skip | 10 February 2021 - 12:15:28

the WHO official press release has said they even if there is 100% vaccination, social distancing, travel restrictions, testing, lockdowns will continue. WHO press release has said vaccination does not guarantee protection from infection and will spread the virus due to shedding which is when the vaccinated are contagious for 2 weeks post vaccination. the press and tv wont show them.

Sandbar | 09 February 2021 - 12:14:08

Close the place down. Repaint it, re-badge it "Siam" the mystical Island of love, with swaying palm trees, where dark eyed tanned native girls gyrate thier hips to the sounds of the aphrodisiac island music! 

Kurt | 09 February 2021 - 07:31:15

@Capriconball, sorry, but before May 2014 I paid B75 for a beach chair at Kamala, including a fruit basket. At Naiharn I always paid B100 for beach chair. And I still pay B100 at Naiharn, despite the very limited number of chairs. ( Perhaps because I am not a tourist and also good during their 'rainy days') 

Christy Sweet | 08 February 2021 - 23:13:20

There is a SARS epidemic. Hand out the cash and shut it all down for about 2 months- no one comes in - or out. Otherwise there's no coming out of it. 

Capricornball | 08 February 2021 - 23:00:13

Speak for yourself Kurt, the former "beach culture" was nothing but greed gone rampant, with people unable to sit at some beaches without being fleeced 200-300 baht for a stupid plastic chair. Most beaches were like ashtrays after the day was done, and trash was stuffed out of site, with ungrateful vendors leaving all their crap behind. Beaches are looking beautiful as ever now.

Kurt | 08 February 2021 - 09:04:26

Hi JSombra, The 'beach clearing' has been completed long time ago. Nothing left of the Phuket beach culture of before May 2014. There is simply nothing anymore to enforce. 
So many people who got food on their table by working at the beaches lost their jobs. How nice was the Naiharn beach restaurants setting all over, including restaurant on the rocks, south side. All rigidious gone. 

JSombra | 07 February 2021 - 16:10:57

Kurt, You obviously have nit been to Phuket for a long time if you think the beach clearing is still enforced

Foot | 07 February 2021 - 14:22:10

As usual, few are thinking as a tourist would.  Hey, come to Phuket where 30% of Thais and all non-Thais could be infected!
Sure to impress!
Make it 100% of all - including non-Thais - and promote the heck out of it.  Tourists would welcome an island of safety.
Want to attract tourists? Think as a tourist!

Galong | 07 February 2021 - 13:29:05

As a small tourism business, we have gotten diddly-squat in assistance. We got a pittance of a Social Security contribution break. I guess the 'big boys' are all that really matters. Our company is only staying open to honor/support our Thai staff. There is, however, a limit to how much more we'll swallow. That limit is approaching rapidly.

lokjang | 07 February 2021 - 13:08:11

Reducing the grossly inflated cost of living in Phuket to a reasonable level, more in line with other provinces would be one way to help locals who are struggling economically.

CaptainJack69 | 07 February 2021 - 12:00:31

Social security did what people had spent years paying into it for and paid out benefits for a short period. They tried their hardest to deny every claim. Beyond that most people have seen no aid from the gov. at all. Nothing. Some banks have suspended loan payments (while still adding interest) but no one can get more credit. All these schemes are just hot air.

Kurt | 07 February 2021 - 10:26:30

What is Phuket offering to tourists now? Expensive shopping centers! As Phuket resident I shop branded goods cheaper in Singapore than on Phuket, and than be sure it is really branded and not copied as so many times on Phuket. It is sad not to notice that Phuket during this pandemic time is not cleaning up her 'act'. Not preparing for a very different tourist future that it is going to fac...

Kurt | 07 February 2021 - 10:13:49

...under breezy pine trees. Beach chair 'concession holders' keeping beaches clean, provided ash trays, drinks, fruit. A few steps from the sand/ your chair having great lunch times. All gone. That was Phuket's 'tourist destination'. The tourists that time swallowed the Phuket transport scam, a way of give-take thinking. How many people lost jobs just alone of that beach policy...

Kurt | 07 February 2021 - 10:05:34

What we are missing for Phuket's future is vision, pro-activism, smart New Normal Ahead thinking. Stop chewing that old  ' Phuket world-class tourism destination' thinking of the past. That image faded away  in time since 2014 rigid 'beach clearing'. Remember the chair/umbrella times clean beaches, socialize/make friends at beaches. Having drinks, meals at under breezy pine tri...


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