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Ministry pulls travel cash incentive scheme

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Easy come, easy go. The Finance Ministry has scrapped the plan to subsidise Thai’s travel expenses to the tune of 1,500 cash per person. The program was aimed at up to 10 million people for travel in any of the 55 second-tier tourist provinces, part of a scheme to promote domestic tourism outside the well-trodden tourist traps.

But the ministry has pulled the plan after days of criticism that the money could be better spent on other projects. The project was estimated to cost up to 15 billion baht to implement. A spokesperson says they’ve decided to focus on extending the current domestic tourist tax deductions in travel expenses and raised the cap from 15-20,000 baht per person.

The government has taken flak in recent months for relying on populist policies. The proposed local tourist subsidy was ciriticised for being yet another ‘pork barrel’ project.

“Pork Barreling – the utilisation of government funds for projects designed to please voters or legislators and win votes.”

Meanwhile the Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha has scoffed at the criticism, saying the original proposal was aimed at boosting the economy and had yet to be discussed and finalised in Cabinet before being axed.

He said the export sector has been hit by the US-China trade war and that economic growth should be spurred by encouraging consumers to spend more money at home. PM Prayut was reportedly angered by the leaking of news about the project as the hand-out plan was not yet fully discussed in the Cabinet.

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Thailand

More than a third of Thai tourism-related businesses closed down

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More than a third of Thai tourism-related businesses closed down | The Thaiger

A Tourism Authority of Thailand survey, conducted between January 10 – 12, indicates that more than a third of the country’s tourism-related businesses has already shut up shop and gone out of business. An enormous majority were begging for TAT and government assistance fearing that they are unable to hand on much longer.

1,884 tourism businesses in Thailand were surveyed about their situations and how they were coping with the long-term closure of the Thai borders and the local restrictions on travel.

The businesses were in the areas of accommodation, travel firms, restaurants, car and bike rentals and public transport businesses.

34.7% said they had already shut down or gone out of business.

That the TAT admit that more than a third of their front-line organisations have gone to the wall already is a big turn-around from the perennially optimistic tone and often cringe-worthy predictions. The TAT and the Thai Minister of Tourism and ports are now staring down the barrel of an industry, not only diminished, but changed forever after decades of stunning growth.

At the start of the week the Tourism and Sports Minister claimed that 10 million tourists would start arriving on Thailand’s shores from the middle of this year for the rest of 2021. Just 3 months ago he also predicted that domestic tourists would undertake some 10 million trips a month during the forthcoming high season (December to February).

With only hope to back up his speculative predictions, the Minister was hopeful the stimulus measures approved by Cabinet will boost tourism numbers and help off-set some of the economic devastation caused by the closure of Thailand’s international borders.

This week’s prediction was that tourists, foreign and local, would be spending 1.2 Trillion baht on the battered tourist industry during 2021. He failed to provide details about where these tourists would come from or where they would visit during their stays – stays that still have to begin with a 14 day mandatory quarantine.

The only good news is a further 65% of businesses that continue to struggle on, waiting to see how 2021 unfolds and the effect of the roll out of Covid-19 vaccines, that will allow countries to open borders and a greater level of travel freedoms once again.

The break out of a cluster of infections in the Samut Sakhon province, just south west of Bangkok, and now spread to the majority of other Thai provinces, on December 20, forced the government to restrict inter provincial travel. The not-quite-a-lockdown that followed severely dampened the travel plans of locals and foreigners inside Thailand over the traditional December/January holiday season. This week the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority loosened some of the earlier restrictions and allowed some formerly closed businesses to re-open.

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Government is to allow people to use “legal” parts of cannabis in business

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Government is to allow people to use “legal” parts of cannabis in business | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Thaiger

With intentions to promote cannabis as the country’s potential new cash crop, the government is preparing guideline to allow people to produce, sell or own cannabis and hemp. The permitted businesses, including textile, pharmaceutical, and cosmetics will be able to register to receive FDA permissions from January 29.

According to the FDA secretary-general, leaves, stalks, stems, roots, flowers, and seeds are not in a list of legal parts as they have high drug content (is there anything left?). Individuals are still not allowed to grow both cannabis and hemp without authorisation. Import and export of hemp must seek permission from the FDA Office as well.

Interested applicants in Bangkok can register at the FDA Office, while those in upcountry can contact the provincial public health offices. Courses and training about how to start a business using marijuana plants will be provided under the collaboration of the Education Ministry and Public Health Ministry.

However, a traditional medicine expert with Chaopraya Abhaiphubejhr Hospital, suggests that 6 groups of people should avoid food and drink with marijuana, including those with liver and kidney problems, heart disease patients, people aged below 25, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and those taking stimulant medications.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Myanmar cancels Thai investment in the Dawei Special Economic Zone

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Myanmar cancels Thai investment in the Dawei Special Economic Zone | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Environment Justice Atlas

The Dawei Special Economic Zone Management Committee has announced the cancellation on the deep seaport project contract with Italian-Thai Development (ITD), one of Thailand’s leading industrial firms, by saying that they “lost confidence” in the company after long, controversial issues.

The Dawei Special Economic Zone Management Committee said that the Thai company has caused them “repeated delays, continuing breaches of financial obligations under the contracts and the concessionaires’ failure to confirm their financial capacity to proceed with development”.

They say they will look for new development partners to continue the projects. Currently, there are still no comments from ITD.

The Dawei Special Economic Zone is Myanmar’s initiative to encourage international investments into the country, but the project has been delayed because of funding problems and local opposition.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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