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Phuket Gardening: Reading palms again

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Gardening: Reading palms again | The Thaiger

PHUKET: I recently came across a letter in which the writer lamented the absence of palms on Phuket’s beaches. Not like the Caribbean, he declared.

While this observation is more or less true, there are a few sprouting improbably from the sand dunes at secluded spots around the island. And anyway, there are plenty of alternative trees: avenues of casuarinas just yards away from beaches such as Nai Harn, and at the sea’s edge, screw pines and sea almonds to lend an exotic and verdant touch to the shimmering sands.

Of course, it is the coconut palm (cocos nucifera) which one normally associates with tropical paradises. But it not a good choice for your garden unless you want a specimen lawn tree or two, and unless you have oodles of space the mature fronds may be nine feet across. My local spa has several coconut palms, fully sixty feet tall. However, they were obviously already there when the spa was created, and the designer, conscious of how effective they look near swimming pools, sensibly made a feature of them, and surrounded the swollen base of each bole with a circular bed of colorful and ground-hugging flowers.

Where less lofty palms score over other small garden trees is in terms of their neat appearance, their ability to survive harsh conditions, and their distinctive aesthetic appeal. Silhouetted against a brilliant red sunset, they look superb. A tropical garden without palms is like a duck without water. And if you do want a coconut palm – useful and tasty as well as beautiful – you can always opt for a dwarf variety. The good thing is that they all contain sweet juice and delicious white flesh.

There are now dwarf cultivars which produce fruit when only three or four years old. However, the Malayan Dwarf and the New Guinea Dwarf are both something of a misnomer since they can attain thirty feet. Very much smaller and with a wide crown of leaflets is the Fiji Dwarf, a slow growing and wide-spreading variety, which, unlike most palms, provides dense shade. Another, Red Spicata, produces orange/red nuts. While the parent species produces a round crown of fronds at its lofty apex, many of these dwarf palms are characterized by a wedge-shaped arrangement of leaves.

Growing palms is a relatively straightforward business. Here in the tropics, cocos nucifera or ma-phrao, once established, enjoys full sun, but plant small specimens or sprouting coconuts in shade, and transfer them later to an open location. The root system is relatively small and since new roots form from the base of the trunk, even big trees can be successfully transplanted in the wet season.

One small palm which has received less than its due in these columns is the MacArthur palm.(mak khieo) It has slender stems which form a clump, somewhat like the better-known golden cane palm. The feather-shaped leaves, however, have blunt ends, as though they have been snipped by crimping scissors. This feature in no way detracts from the tree’s attractive appearance, for the leaves are not only glossy and dark green, but tend to discolor less as they age. Periodically, it produces panicles of flowers which are followed by masses of bead-like yellow fruits which turn brilliant red as they ripen.

The MacArthur palm prefers shade and will grow where there is little direct sun. Groups planted together can form an effective screen in a small garden. It can also be used as a potted specimen on terraces and patios. Preferring moist soil, it can, like most palms, be grown directly from seed.

Phuket gardening tip of the week: Pre-emergence herbicides

Herbicides are classified according to what stage of weed growth they affect, as well as how they damage or destroy weeds. They are either synthetic or natural.

Pre-emergence herbicides work by inhibiting the growth of germinating seeds. They do not affect established plants, so they must be applied to the area before or immediately after the seeds sprout. So first remove existing weeds by hand if you are treating an area with flower beds or grass.

Note the chemical ingredient on the label and check to see how long the product remains active in the soil. Otherwise you may harm seeds sown later. Many pre-emergence herbicides are used to kill germinating seeds in lawns, especially invasive crabgrass, and are often used in combination with fertilizer. This increases the lawn’s vigor and its capacity to compete against weeds. Chemicals used include oryzalin, pendimethalin, prodiamine and clithiopyr.

Phuket Gardening is Phuket Gazette columnist Patrick Campbell’s feature of all things flora.

If you have a question or a garden that you would like featured, you can email Patrick Campbell here.

Keep checking our online Phuket Lifestyle pages for regular gardening features and tips.

— Patrick Campbell

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Property

Guaranteed rental returns – Are they real?

The Thaiger

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Guaranteed rental returns – Are they real? | The Thaiger

If you’re looking to invest in overseas property, search the market and it’s not unusual to find condos for sale with guaranteed rental returns of 40%, and some even higher. Yes, it DOES seems too good to be true, but the offers are out there and the packages often come with free legal fees and other such benefits. Clearly, before diving in, you need to seek some expert and professional advice.

So, what is the debate about? And what questions should you ask prior to investing?

Guaranteed rental returns are obviously enticing for investors and purchasers alike, with standard net returns usually being advertised below the 10% mark.

In the opinion of many, this is not a cheap marketing trick. Yes, it does have ‘marketing power’ and it might just be the additional financial package that helps developers and agents clinch the deal. But for the investors, they genuinely are guaranteed a minimum return on their investment. Surely that’s positive. It eases the concerns of investors and keeps the market buoyant. And why wouldn’t buyers prefer to go with the property that guarantees this return, over the property that does not?

Other experts are not so sure. While acknowledging that a rental guarantee clearly offers agents and developers an advantage in marketing and selling, there are voices within the industry that urge caution. There’s a suspicion that developments that come with a guarantee may be overpriced and that the developers may have factored the cost of the guarantee into the actual price of the property that is being offered.

Those that hold this negative opinion about guarantees suggest that a better strategy for any investor might be to really understand the market in which the property is being offered, aim to get the lowest price possible, do the deal and then organise the letting independently.

Other cautious voices wonder if investors aren’t being tantalised with a vision of unrealistic long-term returns. The question that is asked is what happens when the guaranteed period ends? It’s not unknown for the guaranteed period to expire, and for the investor to suddenly realise that the true rental value of the property is much lower than they believed. Rental incomes suddenly drop, and they suddenly realise that they have overpaid into the wrong investment.

But still, many deny that developers overprice properties when offering guarantees. And no matter what, it’s clear that a rental guarantee is important for certain investors who need the security that it offers. And genuinely, it appears that there are some good guarantees out there on the market. So what to do?

The trick is to apply common sense and due diligence to the situation and examine the legal, commercial and financial strength of the guarantee and the market in which it is being offered. Here are some questions worth considering:

Legally, how is the guarantee structured?

Is it underwritten with a contract in which legal recourse is an option, should you not receive the income that is guaranteed? This is clearly important.

Commercially, is the guaranteed rental figure in-line with the rental market in which the property is situated? Basically, are the developers offering you more rental income than is actually achievable in the current market? If they are offering you more, then once the guaranteed period expires, you’ll probably see your returns on investment drop.

Financially, how does the guarantee work?

Is the guaranteed return dependent upon the commercial success of the project?

Some guarantees are based on projected annual revenues and are subject to these revenues being achieved. In other words, if the expected revenues aren’t achieved, the full guaranteed amounts might not be paid to the purchaser.

In addition to this, some guarantees may also come with the proviso that the amount being ‘guaranteed’ is ‘subject to the competency of’ the management of the complex. This may seem vague, but it’s possible that if the expected revenues aren’t achieved, then the blame for this failure is going to be put solely on the management company.

The vagueness of such a ‘competency’ proviso might also be used to cover all manner of issues. For example, is it possible that forecasted rental revenues might fail to materialise, not because of the bad management of a complex, but because the original forecasts were set too high? It might be easy to blame all manner of poor results on the incompetence of how an apartment complex is managed and to do this with no liability.

With this in mind, once again, it’s very important to look at the rental market in which the property is located, and then ask: are the projected annual revenues realistic in the current market? And of course, you will have to do some research on the developers.

Do the developers have a track record of successfully managing properties, renting them out and ensuring that incomes are generated?

If the answer to this is ‘no’, how then will they be able to generate the income that they are guaranteeing? This may be a sign that the property price has been ‘artificially’ increased to cover any foreseen shortfall in future income.

All-in-all, there’s a lot to consider. Guaranteed rental returns do offer investors a level of security, and it is natural for people to feel compelled to buy into them, and yes, there are some good offers on the market. But it’s worth remembering that in the right location, you’ll always be able to rent out a property.

As we always recommend at The Thaiger, do your homework!

To find thousands of available rental properties in Thailand, click HERE.

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News

30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands

Greeley Pulitzer

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30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands | The Thaiger

Tourists were treated to the sight of a school of dolphins in the Similan Islands off the Phang Nga coast on Sunday.

Tour organisers said that around 30 dolphins swam close to the boat six or seven miles offshore, creating excitement for passengers. It was the first time dolphins had been seen in the vicinity since October 15.

The Similan Islands National Park director said they were bottlenose dolphins and were among several species now returning to the area following a five-year closure of the park for environmental rehabilitation. Food is again plentiful there for them, he said.

Tourists are forbidden to feed wildlife lest the free handouts alter the animals’ natural behaviour, and the park’s waters are also very sensitive to contamination from human disease and marine debris, according to the director.

SOURCE: nationthailand.com

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Business

500 people own 36% of equity in Thai companies

Greeley Pulitzer

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500 people own 36% of equity in Thai companies | The Thaiger

Roughly 36% of Thailand’s corporate equity is held by just 500 people, highlighting wealth inequality in the Kingdom, according to a study released by the Bank of Thailand’s research institute.

Each of these 500 amass some 3.1 billion baht (102 million USD) per year in company profits, according to the report from the Puey Ungphakorn Institute for Economic Research. In contrast, average yearly household income in Thailand is around 10,000 USD.

A report out this week from the Economic and Business Research Centre for Reform at Thailand’s Rangsit University also pointed to divisive and polarised politics being another root cause of the economic divide.

Thailand’s private sector is dominated by tycoons running sprawling conglomerates. According to the World Bank, the gap between the mega-wealthy and the rest of the Thai population of 69 million is among the many economic challenges for Thailand. According to Bloomberg, the perception of a divide, exacerbated by an economic slowdown, is a major political fault line.

“Magnates arise in Thailand from institutional factors that privilege certain businesses,” said the executive director of PIER, author of the study.

The institute said Thailand needs to promote competitiveness to reduce profits from monopoly power and bolster entrepreneurship to create a more equitable distribution of corporate wealth.

The research is based on analysis of 2017 Commerce Ministry data on the 2.1 million shareholders in Thai firms, and was funded by the University of California San Diego.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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