Saturday, October 14, 2006


Sim City is the most educational PC game ever. At least it has been for me. I had never appreciated the complexity of running a city until playing that game.

For those of you unfamiliar with the game, you start with a wilderness, some funds, lots of equipment and the objective of building a city. It gets more complicated. Build it and Sims will come. The Sims will build their own homes, factories, shopping centers and so on. But you must provide the entire infrastructure for them to do this. Plus you must keep them happy or they will leave. That’s bad because you keep the place running off of their taxes. You get approval ratings from the Sims and getting good approval ratings is the object of the game. (I think perhaps Singapore is the closest thing to a Sim City anyone can find in the real world.)

What does this have to do with Thailand? Well I’m an outsider (farang), but everything seemed to be going right under the deposed PM Thaksin. He had the economy going good, not great. The country had three out of four years of plus balance of payments. The treasury was flush. The rapid transit system was improving. A great subway system opened on my arrival. Plans were on the table for much more. Traffic was a mess but he was working on it.

Here is what the Christian Science Monitor says about the Thai economy:

For all the political chaos Thailand has seen over the past year, the economy has proved refreshingly stable. Inflation is under control, the current account is running a surplus, and stronger than expected growth in both exports and tourism has helped offset a decline in domestic demand. Economists expect that a more stable government - regardless of whether the military installed it - should unleash a torrent of pent-up consumer spending and investment.

"All in all, things look good. The economy should bottom out in the fourth quarter and then start recovering next year," said Ussara Wiraipitch, a senior economist at Standard Chartered. The London-based bank is forecasting Thailand's GDP to grow 5.2 percent next year, much higher than the expected 4.1 percent growth this year.

You can read the entire article *HERE*.

So why was he deposed? He lost the approval of the people in Bangkok. The reason given is corruption. I don’t get around much here but I have seen no corruption at all. I have heard a couple of stories that, if true, paint a very bad picture of what was going on.

But the biggest problem the people had with Thaksin is described here in the Business Times:

Thai authorities are set to investigate whether the state-linked Singapore investment firm's takeover of Shin Corp, the telecom giant ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra founded before entering politics, violated laws here.

Thaksin's family sold their 49 per cent stake in Shin Corp to Temasek for US$1.9 billion (US$1 = RM3.69) under a tax-free deal in January, triggering months of street protests demanding his resignation over alleged corruption.

The prolonged political turmoil culminated in a bloodless coup on September 19 that ousted Thaksin, who was in New York at the time of the putsch, and currently lives in exile in London.

Under Thai rules, foreign investors can own up to 49 per cent in Thai telecom companies but the question is whether other local entities acted on Temasek's behalf.
You can read the entire article *HERE*.

So it turns out the choice he had to make was whether to remain Prime Minister of Thailand or collect 1.9 billion dollars. Tough choice. I hope he’s happy in London.

But the point of this piece is that now a bunch of generals are in charge of this Sim City. It’s a very complicated game. I hope they’re up to it.

What are the odds?


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