Subscribe in a reader

Friday, 7 September 2007

It's September in Koh Samui!

The new Constitution was approved at the Referendum on 19th August and the General Election has been announced for December 23rd subject to formal confirmation. It is anticipated and indeed hoped that a new democratic government will have a more realistic and pragmatic approach to the issues that have been creating lack of confidence in foreign investors over the last twelve months. There are many people with whom we are in communication all over the world and, with a few exceptions, most are deferring investment decisions until early next year. The indications are, that with a sensible resolution to foreign investment, Thailand, and Samui in particular, will not only recover but continue to flourish.

I received a phone call the other day from a rather nice sounding young lady in the UK. She worked for “the largest non-bank” foreign exchange company in England and would like to introduce me to the wonderful deals she could offer my clients on currency exchange. Not only did they get such wonderful exchange rates but there were no transfer charges. Well this was really interesting so I let her carry on with her sales pitch which was probably unfair because I knew how much of a sticky wicket she was on, but she did not. Eventually I had to ask her if she was aware that the Thai Baht traded at different rates onshore and offshore. No she did not but she was sure they could get a better rate in England. I asked her if she was aware that there was currently a 5 Baht difference in the two rates and that made a difference of £1,275 on One Million Baht? I asked her if she was aware that by transferring funds into Thailand in Thai Baht meant that you could not get a Foreign Exchange Transaction Certificate and what were the consequences of that? Of course she had no answer to this and said she had to check back with the trading desk and would get back to me. Of course she did not. The problem is that I am seeing more of these companies trying to persuade people to use their services on the promise of better exchange rates and free transfers. The reality is that in all my time here in Thailand I have always obtained better rates onshore even when the difference was marginal rather than the large gap we have now. As shown above it will cost you £1,275 more to buy one million Baht offshore than on shore. But it does not end there. The Foreign Exchange Transaction Certificate will be needed if and when you want to transfer funds out of Thailand without incurring any tax liability. It is the evidence you need to say ‘I brought this money in, and I can take it out!” Without the FETC the Revenue Department will assume you earned the money here and it is therefore taxable. FETC’s are only issued on amounts in excess of $US20,000 and consequently sending funds out of Thailand in amounts less than $US20,000 is generally not a problem but the original “Inward Transfer Advice” from your bank showing when funds arrived and how much should be sufficient to avoid any Revenue Department demands.

Big C Supermarket opened on 6th September as welcome competition to Lotus Tesco. I recall when Lotus Tesco first opened here it was really quite exciting as suddenly we had access to a much wider range of product than had previously been available in the local supermarkets. Sometimes we forget what it was like before they came, going from one supermarket to another to find what you were looking for. Of course the novelty wore off and the shortcomings of Lotus Tesco became apparent – supply chain problems, uninterested staff etc. Will Big C be any better? Let us at least hope some competition makes both companies a little sharper. Big C is located just south of Bandon Hospital on the Ring Road.

One good thing about Lotus Tesco was that it incorporated a Cinema and, whilst we do not get every major film release, those we do get we get at the same time as they open internationally which is not bad for a small island in the south of Thailand. Last month we had both “Rush Hour 3” and “The Bourne Ultimatum”. The theatres are modern and comfortable and for the romantics the back row has the “Honeymoon” seats, two large seats joined together. The row in front, Row A, is my preference as they have given extra leg room to the next row which allows you to stretch out in comfort. At Baht 140 a seat, good value. Coke and Popcorn Baht 80 a cheap couple of hours of good entertainment.

A quick reminder if you are planning a trip to Samui in November – Loh Kratong falls on the 24th November this year. If you have never seen this before it is well worth planning your visit around this Festival where hundreds if not thousands of candle lit Kratongs are set afloat in the sea, on lakes and rivers. More details on that in a future Newsletter.

For other Festivals around Thailand visit the Tourist Authority of Thailand website.

No comments: