Friday, 28 April 2017

UK and Thailand economic growth and Resilience as smooth as silk?

Khun Pornpinun Chantapacdepong makes some eloquent points in her Asian Development Bank Institute role on the Fed rate tax hike and ultra-low Asian rates:

And it's interesting she cites the Eurozone negative rates of the last few years and even Hungary's developing economy of the last two months.

And she must surely be correct about a potential development delay in both overly-cautious financial institution investments and household savings in ASEAN, and especially Thailand, with both a sluggish global economy and much-reduced FDI.

In my politics role in Kent to help refloat the East Kent economy and greater ASEAN activity I'm aware of no particular UK role in the ADB - other than via the alphabet soup of IMF and ECB and even AIIB and UNDP. But there's certainly a revamped trade remit over UK's own sluggish growth in doubling UK-ASEAN exports over the next decade.

But surely a key aspect of boosting ASEAN trade - Thailand with Vietnam one of the UK's top 5 growth economies plus Mexico and Chile across the wider Asia-Pacific region - would be what Khun Sutapa Amornvivat, Chief Economist of SCB Bank has termed mega-infrastructure projects?

Germany's dynamic engineers from the likes of Siemens are already busy scoping out Southern Cone port and rail connectivity through the Chilean Pacific coast and Argentina's Atlantic coast. Important for tourism and the meat trade diversification.

ASEAN Rail to deliver on interlinked Greater Mekong Region capitals and through to China's One Road One Belt project and the new UK/EU-China rail link is already one of, if not the main, UNDP project.

That roster could easily be padded out with schools or broadband or sewage or sports or public transport infrastructure. Even refreshing-reappraising Bangkok's canals or the HCMC and Yangon waterfronts, as with Asiatique or Basson, before they disappear under a rash of cookie-cutter skyscrapers.

And both BKK UNEP and Philippines' dynamic IRRI Rice Institute already warning of the dangers of Climate soil salinity, waterway floods and rice shortages in the Mekong Delta as far north as the Tonle Sap. A man-made disaster with the similar Bangladesh Delta to rival the East African famines. And Swansea's Tidal Bay Lagoon perhaps offering some innovative answers on both renewables and resilience.

But innovative infrastructure firms such as Arup or Atkins or even Hitachi must be chomping at the bit, not just to complete the Singapore-Yunnan rail circuit, but to overhaul the electric rail infrastructure and double-track-double-stack rail systems throughout ASEAN. And especially in Myanmar and Cambodia where they would be essentially starting from scratch.

And if the Dawei link to Myanmar and the Indian Ocean may be a chimera along with the Kra Canal or Laos-China Highlands routes, but certainly the deep sea port at Vinh and link to Vientiane should boost trade across both Central Vietnam, Southern Laos and Isaan.

And therein lies a second stimulus to galvanise ASEAN trade, in effect Vinh and Cam Ranh Bay being robust port links across the Pacific (whether freight or booming Saga cruise ship over 50's tourism) despite the absence of TTIP at the moment, with a Resilience Strand.

Vinh as in effect a second Haiphong would provide insurance for Climate Change storm-battered Vietnam and a Resilience strand to inoculate both Hainan and Philippines and Indonesia. Much as Bari port in Southern Italy provides a UN and Red Cross Resilience base for the Balkans, Levant and North Africa.

As Philippines’ Transport Undersecretary Karen Jimeno has cited recently, the imperative to move beyond TalkTalkTalk to #buildbuildbuild must surely be where the ADB can leverage support too.

Unfortunately the potential of both the Adriatic and Messina tunnel links to unlock Italian trade through to the Near East are beyond effective EU policing and mired in difficulties. Perhaps it's for the best for UK fast-fashion if the Italian knitwear industry and Turkish or Iranian angora goats- or indeed further afield in Argentinian and Australia -take the slow road to market.

And Thailand's Deep South, in particular, suffering from the recent spate of floods and storms has much to gain from a fast-forward approach to putting in place shovel-ready Resilience infrastructure programmes.

While beyond merely pouring cement from Mergui to Mukdahan, such fine-tuned Resilience activity should lay the groundwork for a third strand in the innovative Thailand Plus One tourism strategy. Balancing Thailand's 10% of GDP as a tourism hub for ASEAN with 21st century Climate revisions such as national park protection and expansion, mangrove wetlands etc etc is a crucial aspect of the national plan.

And even moving forward on ending Thailand's now-minimal malaria issue before the 2024 target would be a major success story and pathway for say Myanmar or Indonesia. Oxford housewife Aung San Suu Kyi would no doubt be keen for UK and Thai support to cross off the deadly Larium from her shopping list in Boots or Tesco Lotus.

Surely ASEAN's next generation should expect nothing less than amazing prosperity rolled out as smooth as silk?


Thursday, 27 April 2017

A Hunger Games or bigger fish to fry for Thailand and UK and ASEAN?

Here in East Kent the Hunger Games movie has popped up with both the first terrestrial TV broadcast (Channel Four's Film Four channel, as with the BBC moving out of London to the regions). And East Kent MP Charlie Elphicke railing against the London transport system acting as a Hunger Games-style dictatorship to Kent transport:

East Kent the lifeline for London with the Channel Tunnel and Dover Port, Europe's largest port along with motorway routes and even the Ramsgate and Hastings fishing industries and seafood. And now of course the One Belt One Road freight train to China and extra Thames Crossing and a new Disneyland with Paramount theme park.

And any Brexit problems of customs delays and even the mega-cementing of Kent countryside for the odd Stack Lorry Park and New Town.

But even worse than the pressures on Kent transport is the news in Khun Sirinya's article of a possible ban on street food in Bangkok:

As a keen supporter of Thai food and Thai tourism I nearly dropped my Great British bacon sandwich on reading the news as surely reducing such street outlets is a backward step? And as Khun Sirinya details, a damaging move for Thailand's Cuisine Culture and a problem for hordes of hungry Bangkokians in having to search far and wide for sustenance?

The only possible benefit might be a reduction in the tidal wave of plastic bags?

And it's particularly worrying with the Michelin restaurant guide last Friday at long last rating Thai cuisine in Bangkok by 2018 - and hopefully out to the regions too. Hopefully one day here in Ramsgate too at Surin Thai restaurant already a top ten UK Thai restaurant - try the sea bass:

It was reassuring to hear Khun Kobkarn the dynamic Tourism and Sports Minister at the Michelin Guide launch quickly rowing back on any street food ban and urging a more detailed rethink, even a Street Food version of the Michelin by Thai Tourism such as the Michelin Rosette for Pub Food in UK?

Any half dozen street stalls are a delicious crash-course in the astonishing range and quality of Thai food, as well as a language course too, and far cooler and less antiseptic than the mall-marts or hotel restaurants.

While the horrifying malnutrition figure of 45% in nearby Laos and Cambodia suggests there is a hole in the ASEAN rice basket if almost 20M people are suffering African levels of starvation. Plus no doubt in Myanmar too where data is even weaker.

But thankfully ASEAN Rail is moving further down the track with PM's Prayut and Hun Sen due to open the Thai-Cambodian link to Sisophon by July. Leaving only a few hundred kilometres of track through to Phnom Penh and onto HCMC. 2 years to complete? 3?

The ASEAN Focus magazine details the spur routes from Vientiane in Laos to Vietnam's deep sea port in Vinh and Kanchanaburi through to Dawei which would expedite foodstuffs through ASEAN's markets and into China's Yunnan and Chengdu hubs, and with increased demand of course onto Europe and UK:

And ASEAN Forum magazine also with hispeed rail, Cambodia Tourism and UK Trade Envoy Lord Puttnam:

Indeed, the first London to China freight train has already left Essex and Kent through the Channel Tunnel and should be arriving in China any day now.
And here in UK, supposedly a G7 nation with the world's 5th largest economy, we've managed to reach the woeful figure of 1M people relying on Food Banks for free food welfare. Plus more action called for on a Sugar Tax for HFSS (High Fat Salt and Sugar) foods especially fizzy drinks along with the delayed UK Tobacco Plan (100k deaths each year in UK) and Air Pollution Plan (50k deaths each year in UK).

Kent County Council's investment of public sector pensions in tobacco is astonishingly foolish given its remit for Public Health and reducing tobacco. It's almost as silly as its investments in Fossil Fuels with the closure of all the UK's main coal mines last year, and last week the first full day ever of UK electricity generation without coal.

It's hard to see how either problem will be fixed, given UK smoking rates are static at 15%, without store permits/reductions for tobacco, especially the main supermarkets ending tobacco sales or at least donating profits from the cancer sticks to charity.
Plus the speeding up delivery of electric cars, batteries and charging posts from both public sector and private sector fleets before the end of combustion engine manufacture by VW etc by 2030.

In my politics work (Garbutt for MP on 8th June) I'll also be urging from the Sky TV campaign on Ocean Plastics biodegradable and recyclable plastics for products on sale here at the seaside given plastic washed into the oceans may be 80% higher than thought.

Street food stalls aside though, surely the Thai agriculture and food industry should be going full steam ahead for Superfoods and Healthy Eating for UK and Europe?

Scottish schoolchildren will no doubt struggle along with the tartan version of a balanced meal of just a deep-fried Mars bar and a glass of whisky for lunch. Although in a disunited kingdom they've somehow managed free university tuition and votes for 16 year olds that the rest of UK doesn't have. No doubt a boon for Scotland's 19 excellent universities as well as Kent's 4 universities and dozens of colleges and language schools.

One interesting policy for the 8th June election (did I mention Garbutt for MP?) is Labour - the UK's Redshirts if you will - new policy for free school meals for all 11M UK schoolchildren not just the poorer ones.

Surely that should be a major boost for Healthy Eating and surge in UK Obesity, whether Great British Quorn, a sort of mushroom protein, now big in Philippines exports (delicious in Laarb too) or Alpro Soya Milk in nearby Belgium. Or even 10 a day fruit and veg from the orchards of Kent's apples and pears and Thailand's bananas and coconuts.

While agri-research on Loei and Kent strawberries must be a shoo-in to phase supplies through the seasons for companies such as Tesco/Lotus?

Even the Kent and Thai orchids industries are being urged on by Asda-Walmart, John Lewis-Waitrose and Wilkinson and small florists here in Ramsgate. Again it's hardly outrageous to see the blooms phased into both the UK Summer and Winter seasons, even as a new variety of Xmas decorations.

Thailand's rubber farmers might want to urge on greater automotive links between Thailand and the resurgent UK car industry in Nissan Sunderland and the Midlands Engine for say increased volume on bumpers and floor mats before graphene takes a grip.

While increasing the Thai students studying in UK from 8k to 20k - on a par with Malaysia - would provide a ready-made boost for Thai food exports as well as remittances home. Surely an impetus too to expand Bangkok Bank or SCB branches in UK - one Bangkok Branch Branch in London City can't be enough to cope with extra Thai students and tourists and expats and investment projects?

The surge in Food Science and Sports Science along with Clean Eating and Mood Food fads must also be ripe for UK-Thai research with TDRI and TRF etc?

And why shouldn't Thailand's Superfood industries from Pomegranates to Pineapples be crammed in like sardines next to John West Seafood, and piled high on British plates?

Working together, shouldn't UK and Thailand ensure that nobody goes hungry, and that Hunger Games is just a rather dull movie?


Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Is Justice Boss or not in Thailand and UK?

Khun Veera Prateepchaikul article on Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhaya was as horrifying as it was articulate:

For over 4 years for Boss, the heir to the Red Bull drinks fortune, to evade justice in the hit and run killing of Police Sgt Major Wichian Klanprasert is astonishing. And lost in the blur of four years of his lawyers citing ill-health or business or other drivers is the horrific death of Sgt Wichian knocked under the wheels of Boss' Ferrari and dragged for over 100 metres down Soi Thonglor.

And almost as concerning is Boss now living the hi-so life in UK at London restaurants and motorshow events and the Silverstone Grand Prix. Maybe slaloming through the sois of Mayfair. Perhaps even turning up here in Kent at Brands Hatch.

And as an aside, it resonates uncannily with parts of the La Propuesta segment of the Argentine movie Wild Tales, nominated for both Cannes Palme d'Or and an Oscar, in its story of a hit and run driver of a wealthy family and the gardener and lawyers bribed to take the rap.

## Justice delayed and denied ##

Sure, British justice has its blatant weaknesses too - and here in Kent the One Essex Court fraudsters of Ian Glick QC and Guy Hollingworth follow in Lord Grabiner QC's footsteps with Judge Mann to hide behind their judicial wigs and cronies and above the law.

Or we have Steve Fitzgerald and Matt Clarke as directors of New Zealand's Infratil airports sheltering from extradition over the Manston corporate manslaughter crimes.

And much of East Kent is a byword for council corruption and secretive tax haven corporations above the law from Belize at Manston or Cayman Islands at Dreamland or British Virgin Islands at Pleasurama.

Even Grabiner's cohort, one of UK's richest men, Philip Green of BHS was sheltering offshore in his yacht for much of last year and pursued by the Serious Fraud Squad and Parliament for the £300M BHS pensions.

The Rolls Royce corruption is settled in UK with a court payoff and management clearout but drags in Thailand.

All of which pale into insignificance with Sgt Wichian's broken body.

It looks like Red Bull have indeed given him wings.

And there surely with my politics role where I've called for greater coordination, is where Thailand and UK law enforcement should be active - with Europol and FBI - in pursuing arrest warrants.

Cases not just with gilded youth like Boss but the various drugs and gun runners and white collar criminals that can hide out in Pattaya or Pimlico, and as with the Costa del Crime in Spain and UK criminals, can so tarnish a region.

Will Thailand's legal system take another four years of delays from Boss before justice is heard?