PHUKET: With New Year’s celebrations mostly behind us now, the question everyone has is what’s in store for fourteen? My biggest challenge each and every successive drum roll of another 365 (or 366 in the case of leap years) is to remember to change the date on whatever I’m writing at the time. Typically things settle down by February but I’ve been known to stretch the numbers up to Songkran.
Once we manage to pass the Chinese New Year version as well, the Horse is set to take center stage. Given the gyrations this year, one can easily assume that a temperamental stallion will dominate the horizon versus the sedate posing of a show pony. With the year ending on a wild ride, it’s hard to imaging things will dramatically change and the rock become more of a roll.
What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger is one of the self-obsessed’s mantras but lets take a moment to take a peek around the corner to the dark side that threatens our rather pleasant lives in Phuket Paradise Incorporated.
Let’s start off with CPR and in this instance does not mean pulling an ailing swimmer out of the Kamala surf and performing some mouth to mouth. No, it is of course the double whammy – currency and political risk. This year we have seen Asian currencies slide which have been triggered in many cases by speculation of the US Federal Reserve tapping the quantitative easing measures which prop up the consumption-mad Home of the Brave and Land of the Free. That’s assuming they carry multiple credit cards.
The Fed is at it again and newbie Janet Yellen is here to show us the way. Once the green light is given for the floodgates of capital to open, inflows to Asia are at risk, and bingo exchange rates falter. While Asia is, with little doubt, a section of a bigger world, there is absolutely no doubt that what happens in Washington filters down to our little island in Southern Thailand.
Next comes politics, and all over the region, key elections are again another indicator of how rapid things can change. Here in Thailand, February 2 has been established as D Day, but this, as we all know, remains work in progress. Other major regional countries such as Indonesia and India will also tally up the popularity ratings. Thank goodness China doesn’t have to deal with such trivial things as democratic processes.
We also have geo-political risks, the nut job in North Korea (no not Dennis Rodman), the oil-grab island dispute between Japan and China, together with some smaller countries thrown in as bit players. But let’s face it, as in all things catesphrophic and doomed, the things that may tear you apart often aren’t those you are afraid of, but the ones that come out of nowhere.
On the bright side, there are the Winter Olympics coming up from February 7 to 23 in Sochi, Russia. I’ve not met anyone who actually knows where Sochi could be, like some sort of Borat sequel, a fabrication of the sporting community’s imagination. Let’s face it, Tiger remains tamed, Man United have been relegated to the amnesia brigade and sad, bad Lance broke all of our hearts.
And yet there does remain one bright and shining hope for the world in 2014 with the 2014 FIFA World Cup (except if you are English and for those of you reading this please go immediately to the pub and for God’s sake don’t bother watching, as the tears are already filling up in the giant reservoir in the sky).
In my case, I remain optimistic for the year to come. I of course, am not English, so have no fear of the World Cup, nor any interest in going to North Korea. Will we be headed for places we’ve already been in 2014 or find new stranger territory that even the Coen Brothers haven’t arcanely imagined? There is only one way to find out, turn the next page please.
Bill Barnett is the Managing director of C9Hotelworks. he can be contacted through C9hotelworks.com
— Bill Barnett