This is on top of the usual woes: huge traffic tailbacks, wastewater turning the water along the Patong beachfront brown, and the oft-criticised overdependency on Chinese tourists to bolster tourism – a market many expat-oriented businesses are not designed to cater to.
That’s just to name a few. The usual “anonymous” complaints about interactions with immigration officers or police, local driving habits, power outages and minor flooding, among many other issues, also continue to flow ad nauseum.
Yet the news reports in the wake of all these developments may be shedding a little ray of sunshine through these gray clouds affecting one and all on Phuket.
The traffic delays are due to major roadworks finally underway, even if some projects are taking twice as long as planned. After years of pleas by former Patong Mayor Pian Keesin for funds to build a second wastewater-treatment plant in Patong falling on deaf ears, current Patong Mayor Chalermluck Kebsup has picked up the ball and seems to be making progress in finally getting that project in the pipe.
The airport is undergoing the final stages if a major upgrade, and officials are at least paying attention to future needs to Phuket’s critical tourism portal. The power outages are necessary so workers aren’t fried as they repair or upgrade high-voltage lines serving the increasing number of homes and businesses on the island, and plans have already been drawn up to install an entirely new “corridor of power” to serve the island’s ever-increasing demand.
For years officials bleated time and time that Phuket’s budget allocation was based on the officially registered population – last estimated in 2015 as just under 400,000 – and that was why none of these projects even started just a handful of years ago. But they don't cry that anymore.
Not to mention that during the halcyon days of democracy in Thailand to win a national election no party has ever needed to win a single seat in Southern Thailand, relegating the South to “only face time” on the political agenda. That is now not an issue, either.
The simple fact is that never before has Phuket received so much attention from Bangkok.
People can debate and criticise all these developments until the cows come home – it’s too little, too late; it’s not enough; it’s not good enough; government projects are only recipes for corruption; the island has too many tourists already, and so on – but they cannot argue that nothing is being done to improve the infrastructure on the island. Infrastructure that everything that drives Phuket must rely on.
Like or hate it, the hard truth may well be that this is Phuket’s day in the sun.