Archive for December, 2010

2010 investment recap

Posted: December 31, 2010 in Economy

Reading the usual sources of financial news I see a number of those “best and worst” investments of 2010. Got me thinking. When they are waxing on about how strong U.S. equities performed I have a bit of a chuckle. The S&P 500 ended up all of 12% for 2010. Compare that to this chart of the SET100 (Stock Exchange of Thailand 100 index):

Yeah, it finished up 40% for the year. Add to that an 11% appreciation of the Thai baht versus the dollar, which you might consider if you happen to have dollar denominated investments. So I made 50% on my Thai equities investments (measured against the U.S. dollar) versus 12% on my U.S. equities. It is unfortunate that I still have dollar denominated investments. I have just been too slow dumping the failing currency.

My slow but steady approach has served me well over the years. Because of it I was only partially invested in equities when the market collapsed. At the time I was largely in cash. So I ended up looking like some kind of guru and suffered only a minor hit. But the steady decline in the value of the dollar ended up hurting me this year.

Then there is real estate. It’s such a different world here. While U.S. home prices continue to drift lower and something like 22% of homeowners are underwater on their mortgage (an amazing statistic), our land in Thailand doubled in value again this year. Demand has been strong and steady since we bought here six years ago. The western housing market collapse is truly in a different world. So a 100% investment performance for our real estate holdings. Again, it is unfortunate I didn’t dump more dollars and pick up more Thai real estate this year.

The future is always uncertain but it is pretty well expected that the U.S. economy will remain depressed next year and plenty more banks will fail along with unemployment above nine percent, while the Thai economy is expected to grow around 8% and the Thai government fights to keep the Thai bath from getting even stronger against the dollar.

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A couple weeks ago the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) released its 2009 test results and many people in the U.S. were shocked at how poorly U.S. students performed against other countries. In reading, math and science the U.S. ranked well down the list between 20 and 30. Even more ominous is that Shanghai-China ranked first in all three categories. That’s the future of the world right there -the next generation of Chinese will dominate.

To be fair, the student population was obviously stacked to ensure the Chinese would have high scores. They tested only selected students from Shanghai which has the top education in China and is not representative at all of educational standards elsewhere. That is the Chinese way after all, complete fake in all ways – the way they faked the Olympics proceedings with pre-recorded footage of fireworks and lip-synching by the singer is a classic example of how fake China is to the core.

Nevertheless, U.S. students perform poorly compared to much of the rest of the world. And a new sign of just how poorly comes from a report that 25% of people who try to enter the military fail the entrance exam. Military leaders grow more concerned every day with their future ability to assemble a capable defense. Previously they warned that childhood obesity and early onset of diabetes represented a national security threat. Now they are concerned that 25% of applicants can’t answer simple questions like “If 2 plus x equals 4, what is the value of x?”

Thai house registration for foreigners

Posted: December 20, 2010 in Thailand

In Thailand they have something called a tabian baan or “house registration”. It is a little blue book that is produced by the local district office for each house that identifies the house and lists its residents. Foreigners don’t usually get their names listed in the house registration. In fact, most foreigners think they can’t, and many district offices around the country also think it can’t be done. But that’s wrong. A foreigner can have a house registration. It just requires jumping through some hoops, as well as having a local district office that correctly knows the law.

There is a little difference for foreigners. Rather than having their names listed in the blue book for a particular house they get their own yellow house registration book. That’s a shot below of the cover of mine that I got today.

It’s not really a big deal. It doesn’t confer any additional rights – foreigners have NO rights in Thailand, at least not unless they become a Thai citizen, which is almost impossible. The reason for getting the house registration is for a few specialized purposes, which I won’t go into in this post.

The thing is, I see law firms in Thailand that advertise their service for getting permanent residency by making claims about how it facilitates a number of things, like getting a house registration book. Nope, you don’t need permanent residency. I don’t have it. But you can still get your house registration book. I did.

Those law firms make other claims such as permanent residency makes it easier to get a work permit – not really. If you have a non-immigrant “O” or “B” visa you can get a work permit. I did. It is straight forward. And in order to get permanent residency you have to be in the country for three consecutive years on a non-immigrant visa so you have to have that anyway. I suppose if you are here on a retirement visa, which does not allow you to work, and then get permanent residency you can then get a work permit and start working. That’s the only case that would lend any credibility to that statement about permanent residency making a work permit easier to obtain.

The truth is that permanent residency is a scam, a rip-off. It costs 195,000 baht and the only benefit it offers is that you are not required to extend your non-immigrant visa each year. Those extensions cost 1,900 baht and a trip to the immigration office. So 100 years of extensions is the same cost as permanent residency. You still have to report every 90 days and you still have to purchase a re-entry permit when you leave the country. You don’t need it to get a work permit or to get your name in the house registration, as I mentioned above.

So, save the money you would spend on the permanent residency fee and the lawyer. It’s really a waste.

Each year the owners of Bonanza Ranch here in the Khao Yai area have an event they call the “Big Mountain Music Festival”. I’ve never been to it, just heard about it, and observed the crush of cars trying to get to Bonanza¬† via the narrow little road that leads to it from Thanarat Road. The road expansion of the first eight km of Thanarat was completed so this year more cars than ever can try to crunch into that narrow road to Bonanza. I’m hearing from people who attempted to attend the festival that it was one giant fail event.

One group I heard from rented a house nearby and spent six hours tying to get to the event. By the time they reached the venue the concert was over. They are obviously furious and are demanding a refund for the tickets which cost 1,800 baht each. In typical Thai fashion a large attraction and event is promoted in an area with inadequate access. See that all the time on all levels, starting with the typical business in Bangkok that has no parking whatsoever yet expects customers to find a way to get to their shop. Now we have a four lane highway bringing cars into the Khao Yai area where they stack up. Public works projects should be designed to reduce the number of cars coming into the area, not increase it.