Pandering to Market Growth
Lately I'm not sure which way to turn in the search for insight into Phuket's property chessboard.
I've considered the current situation from every Possible angle – wide eyed optimist, pragmatic blue-collared salt-of-the-earth working man, even a doomsday scenario in which the world ends. But we all know the world is still here despite the madman from the US, who had everyone drawing a mystical ring of finality around May 21. So much for the rapture.
Property-reform and stimulation packages have suffered a tragic fate over the past two or more years of domestic political wrangling. Cambodia, Map Ta Phut, the minimum wage and the pursuit of Thaksin Shinawatra, have all nudged foreign-investment concerns into the back room, like chronic Premier-league underachievers.
Even that panda up in Chiang Mai gets more media attention and ink spilled over its dreary day-to-day lifestyle. Perhaps the property industry should adopt a panda as a mascot. Could a panda reignite some passion and debate over foreign ownership of property in the Kingdom?
It's a stretch.
For now, the one trick pony of domestic-driven real-estate growth may be its readiness to accept speculation as a fuel. Casino-like ambition is a regular suspect at the scene of the crime. Most economists, however, would point to the need for fundamental segmentation in order to mitigate risk and reward in any financial model.
Unless, of course, you are one of the BRIC's – Brazil, Russia, India and China – and you have potential buyers by the hundreds of millions in a consumer-driven gorefest.
These days we have mini-BRICs, such as Indonesia. Southeast Asia's largest economy has a vast multitude of would-be Willy Wonkas lining up in every kampong for a chance to own a bright and shiny new condo.
But back to the present political jabfest, and the big question: when the dust settles, can Thailand please get back to business?
Would-be property buyers are still haunted by the shadow of the 1997 Asian contagion: they remain Thwarted by the Thailand banking sector's inability to provide mortgages to foreigners. That was 14 years ago! Lord, how long do we have to wait? Moses did just 40 days and 40 nights in the desert. Even Richard Nixon was pardoned after a while.
I'm growing impatient watching the panda on television and wondering when things will change.
We need either longer leases than 30 years or the ability to own single homes. Or perhaps there should be a way for banks to secure leasehold property and finance long-term debt. The playing field is not level and investors are finding far warmer signs of welcome at the doors of London, the US and even Singapore or Hong Kong.
Personally, I like living in Phuket and would not have it any other way, so I remain hopeful. Despite walking on my tip toes over the shattered screen of my LED television after one too many episodes from the life of that deadbeat panda, I still remain hopeful that reform will come. The only question is, when?