|  September 1, 2011

What an election it has been!

A fugitive self-exiled ex premier leading the election campaign as the ‘thinker’ for the winning party. A ‘clone’ with no political experience becoming first female prime minister. A ‘murderer’ ex prime minister being voted back in as opposition party leader. A ‘clean’ ex governor embroiled in a corruption scandal. An accused ‘terrorist’…or two…approved as members of parliament. A coup maker sycophantically offering his services to the party he deposed. A self-confessed serial-corrupt tycoon running on an anti corruption campaign. An unknown Chiang Mai member of parliament placed as foreign minister. A ‘king maker’ party hopper denuded of sure-thing votes.

You just can’t make this up.

While this comedy of errors – or is it tragic comedy, whatever it is, laughing helps stem the tears – is being played out to our great amusement, bemusement, frustration, and horror, what about us? How is this going to affect the average Sombat and Busaba on the streets? We have created the monster that is Thai politics, or at best, enabled it into existence.

But what is done is done…for now. And while our political views are more than likely not aligned, I do believe that we in Chiang Mai are about to be sailing in the same boat, perhaps a cruise ship even. Chiang Mai has been unloved by the central government for many years now. Whether it is in punishment for our (the province that is, not me personally) support of the previous governments or other more salubrious reasons, the tide is beginning to turn. Business owners are chafing their hands with rubbing glee in anticipation of the largess to come. And come it will. Remember the wonderfully financially lubricated days of the early to mid 2000s? Mega projects and massive events were held in Chiang Mai, money poured in, infrastructure was erected, tourist numbers increased and we all felt the love, there was so much to spread around. The past few years have been lean and mean in comparison.

So, whether I voted this party in or not, at this point, is irrelevant, because we are all going to benefit from their gratitude to Chiang Mai’s voters. Already there are murmurs of new giant mega projects, massive development schemes, land grabbing, and purse strings loosening. Government bodies have cash to spend, and of course, with annual budget quota systems, spend they must. Bangkok investors are already being seen speculating, and there is great hope for Chiang Mai’s future, or at least immediate future.

My prediction is we are all going to have a marvellous high season. The rains are still pouring, the tourist numbers are still down, businesses are still wary and times are still tough, but not for long. So, let’s make the best of this (short?) time to come. Make sure we scrutinise the local as well as central governments on their development projects to ensure they have longevity and are not mere flashes in the wok. Take advantage of the fortune that will come our way, without taking advantage of our city or of one another, and make this windfall count.

Citylife this month:

For those of you who don’t know the word, shoestring in this issue’s case does not refer to that thing that makes you trip up all the time, but to budget living or barely adequate finances. As times are still tight – not for long hopefully! – we thought we would let go of the haute cuisine, luxuries in life, brand names and posh living this month and concentrate on those who manage to get by on far far less. Citylife has been blessed with wonderful interns recently: Pim Preston, a 16 year old intern who studies at Nakorn Payap, has taken charge of our This is Thailand page as well as working to assist writers on many other stories; Stacey De Souza, a 22 year old from Trinidad and Tobago finds people who live on less than 5,000 baht a month and asks them how they do it as well as visits Doi Tung’s Royal Project where admirable work is being done for the many local communities; and Kanyakrit Vongkiatkajarn, 20, a Chiang Mai high school graduate who now studies at Wesleyan University in the US, takes a look at how Thailand treats and views its disabled. And Citylife ploughs the city to find some of the best deals you can find in town.