HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Care for Dogs

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snap shots

Money Matters


How does your garden grow?

Day Tripper

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Cheap drugs - Are they dangerous?

This week, let’s look at cheap (generic) drugs. Most people here know that you can buy “brand name” medications, which tend to be expensive, or you can buy “copy” drugs that tend to be cheap.
At the outset, let’s just clear up what generics is all about. What you have to first realize is that all medications are chemicals, and somebody ‘invented’ it - these days, drugs are not naturally occurring substances. The ‘Trade name’ for the chemical compounds is owned by the manufacturing company, for example ‘Feldene’ is the compound piroxicam, or ‘Viagra’ which is ‘sildenafil’. Feldene and Viagra are trade names, given to the chemical compounds by the original manufacturer, while piroxicam and sildenafil are generics.

When you buy Feldene, you are getting the piroxicam chemical as invented by that manufacturer, with all the purity and quality controls that a major manufacturer has to abide by. However, when you buy piroxicam tablets, these can come from a little factory on a back street in Bangladesh or Pakistan, with all the hygiene standards being applied that you may or may not like to imagine! Likewise, your cheap blue diamonds, gentlemen, before you start laughing!

The large pharmaceutical companies legitimately say that if they do not have protection, they cannot recoup the cost of the development of the drug - in some cases, multi millions of dollars, and then develop new ones. However, if after it has been invented, Pakky Pills produce the drug cheaply after zero costs have been outlaid for its research, this is obviously unfair.

In some ways it is worse than ‘copy CDs’ where the artist is not getting paid for his work from the royalties coming from the sale of the CD. Sure you get a cheap CD, but the artist has been ‘robbed’.
Through this minefield walks the medical profession. In the developed world, on one side are the large pharmaceutical companies saying that they need the sales to cover and sponsor future research, but on the other side stands the government, saying that the public purse cannot afford these expensive medications, when cheaper, but chemically the same, alternatives are available. These two opposing sides have valid arguments that are quite understandable.

In the developing world it is a little different. The end point consumer does not have the money to buy the expensive original research manufacturer’s tablets, and neither do the governments (who in most cases do not have an all-encompassing health care systems).

To make it even more contentious, there are medications that could be called ‘essential’ for life. The ones that come immediately to mind are the AIDS treatment drugs. Can you justify withholding treatment from the poor (people or countries) just on price protectionism policies? Figures that have been published in Thailand claim that the same medication is available at costs to the consumers between 300,000 baht and 12,000 baht per year. For the poor, one is affordable, one is not. For government or charity purses, ditto.

My stance on generics falls between the two extremes. For non-essential drugs I believe the original manufacturer deserves a patent period and generics should not be sold within that time frame. During that time frame I would prescribe by trade name only and not generic. This covers medications such as yet another BP reducing tablet, of which there are scores, or another non-earth shattering antibiotic. These are not essential as there are many alternatives.

However, for essential medications, generics should be allowed and offered to developing nations, and to the poor, even though this may be within the time frame. In other words, let those who can afford it pay, and those who cannot should be assisted by the manufacturer, who can make their own generic equivalent, as well as licensing other manufacturers to make their drug.

So where do you fit into all this? First make sure that the ‘copy’ drug does contain what it is supposed to and that the drug is released from the tablet/capsule in the strength indicated. Or let your doctor prescribe - it’s much safer!


The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Still smoking?

When you think about it, rolling up dried plant leaves and sticking them in your mouth and setting fire to the end of it sounds like a pretty silly proposal, particularly when you know it is dangerous. Honestly, you may as well stick lighted firecrackers up your fundamentum. At least you’ll get a bang out of it!

I was actually recording some radio spots for the hospital, and when I listened to them, one fact came out loud and strong. When listing ‘risk factors’ for conditions such as heart attacks, cancer, strokes, blood clots, diabetes, and the list goes on, “smoking” was coming up every time.

Unfortunately, when you start smoking, it becomes very difficult to stop smoking. This is because smoking is not just a habit like chewing on a pencil when concentrating. Smoking is an addiction. What you have to realize is that Nicotine is more addictive than heroin. I know that’s probably hard to believe, but that really is the crux of the matter. You take Nicotine into all of your metabolic pathways until you “need” to have Nicotine to be able to function. Nicotine becomes part of your metabolic chemical chains, and they don’t work properly without it. Now you can see just why you feel so dreadful when you go without cigarettes (nicotine) for any period of time.

To give up cigarettes there are many, many ways, ranging from acupuncture, hypnosis, the I Ching, acupressure, Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRT), chewing gum, patches, nasal spray and many others all the way through to Cold Turkey. Hop onto the internet and you are besieged with offers, all of which will make it ‘easy’ for you to stop smoking, and all of which will cost you money!

Interestingly, all of the above methods need the smoker to become committed to ceasing cigarettes. The success rate really hangs on that commitment. Leaving aside hypnosis and acupuncture, about which I know very little, but the good books tell me do not enjoy high success rates, let’s look at the other methods. The majority rely on Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT). All the gums and sprays do is to make Nicotine available for you in measured doses - much like cigarettes do. You get the craving, you chew the gum. You get the craving, you squirt the spray.

Patches are slightly different. They deliver the Nicotine slowly over a 12 or 24 hour period and are supposed to stop the craving before it happens. But often do not.

After stabilizing on the NRT it is time to bring the dosage down, which is the next hurdle at which many fall. The end result can be cigarette smoking plus NRT - a potentially fatal combination. In fact, I strongly believe that NRT should only be done under close medical supervision. Too much nicotine can kill too!

So what is the best way? It’s called Cold Turkey. The proof is in the numbers. There has been enough research done and the prime factor is that the quitter has to be committed to the concept of becoming a non-smoker. Doing it (quitting) for somebody else, because you lost a bet, because you are being nagged into it by your wife, girlfriend, boyfriend is doomed to failure, I am afraid. This is something which requires your total commitment. 100 percent all the way. When I gave up smoking (yes, in my teenage years nobody thought that smoking was bad for you. Smoking was being cool and ‘adult’) I thought it would be a bad scene for a couple of days, but then found that it was a couple of weeks of torture. Here I am almost five decades later and I could begin smoking again tomorrow. It requires dedication and commitment. Yours! No one else’s!

So, I admit that those who go Cold Turkey may go through a rough time with withdrawals initially, but the majority are still non-smokers after one year. The same cannot be said for the others. The “hard” way is ultimately the best way.

You have to make the decision to quit. You set the day. You tell all your friends that you are now a non-smoker - and you stick to it!
It’s the best decision you can make today!

Adoption Fair:

Care for Dogs is having two, big Adoption fairs coming up at the Airport Plaza, on Sundays March 27th & April 3rd, from 11am-6pm! We will have a wonderful group of young and adult doggies and kitties available for adoption. All of the animals are vaccinated and, if old enough, spayed. There are no adoption fees. Besides all the adorable furry faces to kiss and play with, there will be stuffed animals, Care for Dogs' t-shirts, magnets, and other beautiful items available for sale to directly support our rescue efforts. Come out and celebrate the friendship between man and his favorite companion!


This sweetie is still a pup at 1 year. She is medium-sized and has a short golden brown coat. She is playful, yet gentle and affectionate. She is not dominant and gets along well with other dogs. Adorable!

Contact the Care For Dogs shelter English (08 47 52 52 55) or Thai language (08 69 13 87 01) email: [email protected] or visit the website

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
Hardly a week goes by without the KOTW person wanting to tell us all about how he lives in Thailand. I don’t know what you think about him, but he seems to me to be more of a KOTM (Keeper Of The Money) person than anything else. That seems to be his wife’s money too. I am ignoring that he can’t spell (and I hope I haven’t made any errors with this email, Hillary. If I have, forgive me). Is there some way we can raise his watering hole level to a real bar, and not sitting on the steps outside the 7-Eleven?
KOTS (Keeper Of The Sanity)

Dear KOTS,
Everything finally reaches its own level Petal, and if KOTW’s level is sitting on the steps outside a 7-Eleven, then so be it. It is not up to you or me to try and change these things. You will find that the course of history cannot be changed by us mere mortals. He is to be pitied, rather than scorned.

Dear Hillary,
Do you believe in free love? I cannot decide whether you are a prude, or someone very liberated. Your replies are never consistent. Tell me where you lie and make me happy.

Dear Lover-Boy,
I think that “Boy” is all you should use. I don’t think you have matured enough yet to handle nudity, prudity or serendipity. However, in answer to your query about free love, I do not believe in paying for it, though at my age it is coming close! And where do I lie? On my bed, sweet petunia. On my bed.

Dear Hillary,
Sorry I had to send this letter by motorcycle taxi, but I was afraid you might recognize me if I delivered it by myself. As you will see when you read it, my problem comes in trying to find out if my Thai GF is being true and faithful to me, or maybe two-timing while I am away for six weeks at a time (I work off-shore). I am suspicious because every time I ring her it rings through, but then she rings me back 10 minutes later and says she was having som tam and had left the phone in her handbag. If I question this, she always has a girlfriend there who tells me that they were having so much fun they didn’t hear the phone. She also needs to know exactly the time I will get back to Thailand - makes me think there is someone else in the house who has to vacate before I get back. What do you think about me getting back early one month? I am getting all screwed up inside, thinking about it all when off shore.

Dear Sandman,
You did not tell me how long has your relationship been going. Is this something new, or have you been together for years? There must be more to it than just not picking up the phone when you ring. You have left out too many details, Sandy. From what you have told me, there is nothing to get worried about - but give me the full story. I don’t think that getting back early would achieve much either. Even if there was somebody in the house, they could be genuine relatives staying for a couple of days. How would you know? There are private investigators if you want to spend the money, but sit down first and look at the situation and then make up your mind as to whether you really have a problem, or is this something related to yourself and your attitudes and expectations?

Dear Hillary,
My maid seems to be afraid of all time-saving appliances. I have tried to show her how to use the simple microwave and the convection oven, but she will not use either, despite smiling and saying she understands every time. When we have people over for dinner she gets her sister and auntie to come and help, and they sit on the floor of the kitchen with her and prepare the food. I am terrified that one of my guests will see this one day, even though the food is always very nice. How do I get around this problem?

Dear Marjorie,
You really haven’t got a problem at all, Petal. As you say, your maid cooks you very nice meals, so does it matter if she sits on the floor to do it? I am sure that she cleans the kitchen floor too, so it will be spotlessly clean. It is also very common for Thai people to call in assistants, and family is always best, when they have to prepare for a large party. If the food takes a little long in coming, just have some savories and dips to ward off the hunger pangs in the guests, and relax and enjoy. You will not change a Thai maid into a western short-order cook, no matter how many times you show her the microwave! “Thai” means “free” and maids need their freedom to cook the way they always have done.

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
Can you advise us (my wife and myself) as to what is the correct Thai way to eat with a group of Thai people. We have been invited to join some of the staff after work at a local restaurant, but we are just a bit afraid of the spicy food and the hygiene at local restaurants. Please tell us what is the etiquette and safe dishes to order.
George and Mildred

Dear George and Mildred,
Oooooh! Are you the same George and Mildred from the TV show about 20 years ago? Hillary gets some amazing and famous people in this column. Oooooh, I am so honored!
You will find that the fare at local restaurants will tend to be spicy, as that is to Thai taste, but there are many dishes without chilli. Just ask the senior Thai person in the group to advise and some very mild dishes will be brought to the table.
Thais will naturally share all the dishes with each other, and it does give you an opportunity to try several different curries. These days there is (usually) a serving spoon with each dish, so you don’t use the personal spoon you eat with, so it is a bit more hygienic. All stir-fries cooked on the spot are generally the best for hygiene, rather than curries that have been sitting in open pots for a few hours.
Try to just go with the flow, Petals. The Thai staff will be more nervous having you dining with them, than you will be eating with them. Just remember to say “Aroy, aroy” which means you are enjoying the food (even if you are not)!

Dear Hillary,
My Thai wife and I are so glad to see you have had some letters recently showing the other (good) side of Thai marriages. Unfortunately, it is the ones that are in it to clean out the foreigner’s bank account that get all the space in the columns, not the ones who lead a perfectly normal life in a perfectly normal relationship. There’s lots of us with good marriages with girls who came from the bars. I don’t think you should be as hard on the girls as you are, Hillary.

Dear Jason,
You are quite correct when you say that the everyday ‘good’ marriages don’t get the same amount of articles printed as those which turn out to be disasters. This is easily explained as this is an ‘agony aunt’ feature, and so the people who write to me for advice, are generally in some sort of pain. People in good marriages aren’t in pain, so don’t write in. However, I am very pleased to get your letter, Petal, and those from the other two chaps a couple of weeks ago. Gives me faith in human nature again. You have no idea just how depressed I can get some days. Chocs and champers make the pain less.

Dear Hillary,
I am devastated. Valentine’s Day has been and gone and I didn’t get one from anyone. Being a handsome man, I was sure that the postman would be weighed down with cards and suchlike, but he either missed my mailbox, or dropped my mail off in the klong because it must have been too heavy. How was your Valentine’s Day, Hillary? I hope it was better than mine. I feel that nobody loves me, and I don’t know why!

Dear Gorgeous George,
What a blow to the ego February 14 must have been for you! Not left waiting at the altar, but left waiting at the letterbox. What a fate. Oh my goodness! However, Hillary has the answer for you, my handsome Petal. Next year send some cards to yourself and you can noisily take them out after the postman has been, so everyone in the street knows you got some. The only other way to go about filling the letterbox is to stop being such a smug, self-opinionated bore, and people will start to like you, and some may even send you a real Valentine’s Day card. How was my day? Absolutely wonderful, stack of cards and flowers, though it was somewhat strange - most of the cards were addressed to “George”. Where exactly do you live? Close to my office?

Dear Hillary,
Agony aunts in other newspapers like “Ask Abby” get their photos published with their advice column, but you have never shown us your picture. Are you shy or are you malformed in some way? There’s been some drawings of you, but we want the real deal. How about it, Hillary?

Dear Ben,
I do hope you are not THE Ben 10, because of you are, I’m a little old for you, Ben. Now, you impudent young man, I am neither shy nor malformed, but a picture with the column just wastes space. Anyway, a young lady can’t take any risks these days by having people recognize her. I remember when you could cross the street safely, but those days have gone, unless you actually live in Nakhon Nowhere (population 15 people and 23 buffalo, but one died this week, so make that 22). Have fun, Ben, but watch out for aliens!

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Flashing in the daytime

Fill flash used to get detail under vendor’s hat.

I have written many times about not using the flash for low light pictures, but today I will do a complete turn-around. Use the flash during the daytime! This procedure is called Fill-in-Flash, or Fill Flash.

Fill Flash is probably one of the best ways to give life and sparkle to “people” shots, but unfortunately is one of the least understood concepts in photography. In fact, many people are just so afraid of it they never try and condemn themselves to dark, featureless portraits or dreadful pictures full of bright highlights and disastrously dark shadows.

Let us look a little harder at why fill-in flash is required in the first place. Let’s start with taking shots in the bright Thailand sun at mid-day. It is all very well saying that you should take shots in the early morning or late afternoon, but many family gatherings are lunchtime affairs. End result, big black shadows where the eyes are supposed to be and an appearance of bags under the eyes you could put a change of clothes in.

The other time you are going to need a flash fill is when the light (generally the sun) is behind the person you are going to photograph. The camera sets the exposure for the bright background and the foreground then comes out so dark you will hardly recognize anyone’s face.

With both of these shots, what you need is a little burst of flash to fill in the shadows or the underexposed areas of the shot. Another side benefit is that there will be a bright “catch light” in the eyes, which makes the portrait much more alive.

With today’s automatic exposure cameras you must understand that it doesn’t know what it is that you are photographing. It doesn’t know that the person’s face in the picture is the most important item. All the camera brain can see is a mixture of bright lights and dark areas and it will give you an exposure to try and equalize these out. Unfortunately, in conditions of high contrast in the tropical sun, or back lit, the end result will be underexposure of the part of the photograph you want. It’s not the camera’s fault - it just means you have to get smarter!

Fortunately, these days many compacts and SLR’s do have the fill-in flash mode built in, but many of you do not use it - or even realize that you have this facility! Did you read the book that came with the camera? If you have it - then use it! Please do look, the shots you will get back will be much better than you were getting before.

Now, for those of you who have the whole kit and caboodle - an SLR with an off-camera flash, this last section is for you. The whole secret of fill-in flash revolves around flash synchronization speed. Some of the very latest, and expensive cameras will synchronize flash and shutter speed all the way through to 1/2000th of a second or better, but the average SLR will probably say that the synch speed is 1/125th or even only 1/60th and it is this figure which drives the exposure setting.

In practice, what you have to do is put the camera on shutter priority, let’s say the 1/125th synch speed and then read off what the resultant aperture setting is when metering the subject’s face. Let’s imagine the camera meter tells you that it will be f11. Now put the camera in manual mode and fix the shutter at 1/125th and the aperture at f11.

Next step is to set the power of the flash gun, measured in f stops. You do not want the flash to overpower the natural light, so you set the power to be one or two stops less than the aperture you have set in the camera. In the example, the camera is set on f11, so you set the flash on f8 for one stop or f5.6 for two stops.

Take the two shots at the different flash powers and decide which effect is best and practice with this technique for better photographs. You will not be disappointed.

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Photo projects for quiet Sundays

I am a great believer in photo projects to aid the weekend photographer develop the ‘photographic eye’. There is so much more to photography than just popping the shutter and moving on to the next ‘record’ shot. Photo projects help you to develop a theme and then you illustrate that theme, which is at least one step towards professional results.

Take, for example, the local markets. In Thailand these local markets are everywhere (and if you don’t know where your local market is, ask your wife or maid) and carry a myriad of items. The hard part is to isolate some of these items from others, but is not difficult if you have a zoom facility on your compact camera, or a zoom lens for your SLR. By shooting at a focal length of more than 150 mm, and using an aperture of f4 or wider, you will be able to separate the main subject from those surrounding it. You will also be able to stand a reasonable distance from the subject so you are less intrusive and are more likely to get some good spontaneous photographs.

However, before you shoot anything, you should take a walk around your market and make a note of suitable subjects that will show a local market to a visitor to Thailand. Again, this makes you think about how you will present the different subjects.

Items that will come to your attention could include the BBQ chicken/sausage vendors, with smoke trailing from the BBQ coals. Try to backlight this subject - in other words, get the sun behind the smoke and shoot “contre jour”. For these shots with tricky lighting, it is always a good idea to bracket the exposures, so try three shots at half a stop difference.

In markets, the vendors will often arrange their goods in an attractive pattern to show to the prospective buyer. To get this shot, move in close, and frame up very tightly, and review the shot before taking too many of them.

Very often the attraction of the markets lies in the cheap prices, so in your list of shots make sure you get some price tags. Once more zoom in close and frame tightly and you will have it for ever.

Lighting at open markets can be a little of a problem, but not insurmountable. Try walking to the other side of the stall and shooting from there. You should also try not to have the stall or subject half in bright sun and half in shadow. There is just to much of a difference between the two light intensities for the camera to handle.

The photographs this week were all taken on one very pleasurable Sunday afternoon. Try it yourself this weekend.

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Look East

Some investors may be hoping that the recent sell-off by foreign investors on the Stock Exchange of Thailand - which was mainly driven by reactions to China's economic policy decisions, profit taking, the border dispute with Cambodia and rising fears that political tensions in Thailand could overspill into street violence again - may cause a sustained depreciation of the baht.

Since the start of December we have warned of fluctuations in the exchange rate between the baht and the greenback, due to foreign fund flows in and out of the Kingdom. We also emphasised that the recent strengthening of Thailand's currency was no mere blip, instead marking a fundamental shift in the global economic balance of power that was most clearly demonstrated by the role Asia played in leading the recovery from the global financial crisis, but which dates back to Asia's emergence from the problems that led to the crisis of 1997, whereas the Western world is still dealing with its own excessive indebtedness.

So anyone hoping that any such fluctuations will rapidly mark a sustained return to the good old days after the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, when Western currencies enjoyed massive spending power in Thailand, needs to take a second look.

In 1997, Thailand had an overheating economy which was fuelled by hot money, and a bloated financial sector underpinned by a speculation-fuelled property market. The house of cards collapsed rapidly and with massive effect, sending shock waves throughout the region and beyond.

The key point is that the 1997 crash was the result of fundamental weaknesses in Thailand and Southeast Asia's financial markets, which were dramatically exposed once the rampant growth that defined the Tiger economies had become unsustainable. This very much ties in with our belief in long term business cycles which fall into four distinct parts, each typically lasting 15-20 years and which, for Western readers, we tend to describe as spring, summer, autumn and winter. Spring is when new businesses are set up, jobs created and trade steadily starts to grow. Summer sees things blossom.

The rate of growth is increased by the use of leverage and this leads to inflation running away. Higher interest rates to control inflation ultimately lead to winter when slower rates of growth are no longer able to support the higher interest rates and recession appears. The boom cycle has always ended in bust to puncture the debt bubble. This was the case for Asia in the mid to late '90s and for many other emerging economies, such as Latin America, where the peso crisis preceded Asia's sequel.
Heavily dependent on IMF funding, Asia had to follow the bankers' textbook for dealing with the bust part of the cycle.

The upside of the 1997 bitter pill was the implementation of better regulations and practices which strengthened financial systems and reduced government debt throughout the region. Exports then boomed due to the increased strength of buyer currencies in the northern hemisphere, giving birth to a host of new industries which in turn drove local development and increased consumer spending power. In short, Asia cleaned its house and was able to fast-track its recovery on the back of spending by Western consumers, business and governments.

But the excessive largesse and greed that denoted the so-called Casino Capitalism of the USA and Europe resulted in the 2008 global financial crisis. We have seen the onset of economic adjustment in the traditional economic powerhouses of the world beleaguered by weak production, high unemployment, an ageing population and massive national debt.

However, the Western economies have eschewed the traditional remedies that were prescribed in Asia in favour of "experimental economics", a set of solutions that have been tried in the past and have never worked but are now being implemented in a much more extreme format, in case the reason for their failure was that they were not done sufficiently vigorously in previous attempts.

Is it possible to know whether this time will be different? Clearly, judging by the undecided economic debate among experts, the ordinary investor or baht user will struggle to forecast the outcome.

People based in Thailand and remunerated in baht should focus on the local currency for the long term. For residents, that means buying baht at the best price. The baht should be expected to continue to strengthen over the long term but there is a significant risk that we'll see a flight to the greenback at some point in the near future thus presenting a better opportunity to sell dollars or to buy baht at something like a 20 percent lower rate versus the dollar than today. However, this is far from being a certainty.

As always, there is risk. But if you're looking to hold on to your baht for the medium to long term trend to provide solid baht appreciation over the next decade or so, the safer call may be to simply go with the expected long term.

Hedging against a baht correction is another option, but this requires expertise in both timing and selecting the correct hedge. There are a number of products in the market, such as Global Diversified Investment portfolios - we promote Miton Optimal's Rhodium - which hedge in baht as well as most of the major currencies and the Singapore dollar and are able to deliver global asset performance with the ability to access offshore assets in baht. Also, there are covered bond funds which currently yield about 7 percent a year in baht.

By taking exposure to globally diversified portfolios in this way baht investors are able to diversify risk across global assets without taking currency risk.

Perhaps the investors facing the toughest decision now are those who live and work locally but have their salaries, savings and investments in their national currencies - eg, dollars or euros. For example, in the past four years the spending power of British expats based in Thailand who are remunerated in Sterling has declined by about 40 percent. Those earning in US dollars have seen a decline of about one-third in the same period.

If you're in this boat and planning to stay in Thailand or the region for the foreseeable future, then you need to take a position which gives you the most bang for your baht. Holding on to Western currencies indefinitely is increasingly unlikely to deliver this.

The golden rule is that your income-producing assets should be held in or hedged to your currencies of expenditures.
Expats planning to return to their home countries could benefit from investing in emerging market currencies now, assuming these will continue to appreciate at a faster rate than dollars and euros.
As was recently pointed out in MBMG's 2011 outlook, "Gorillas in the Mist", the currency wars of the last few years have increased volatility in the currency markets but savvy investors should look to protect themselves against the risks that this creates and to exploit the opportunities.

A survey by Lloyds-TSB International last year found that over 80 percent of UK expats still hold their savings in Sterling. This seems to be out of habit rather than any conscious decision. Unless they definitely plan to return to the UK the consequences of this bad habit could prove to be very expensive. For expatriates in Asia who can witness the rebalancing of global economic power first hand, this is an issue about which they should be much more aware.

The above data and research was compiled from sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For more information please contact Paul Gambles on [email protected]

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

The New World Order, part 2

So, why are things looking so rosy for the Emerging Markets and developing countries? Two very important factors are population growth and productivity.

The rise in productivity is a natural progression and not exactly difficult to achieve. To begin with the old, developed, countries are exporting their expertise to the Emerging Market ones so they can make better profit margins. However, the knowledge does not stay within but gets out. People then improve what has been brought into the country and then send it back to the Old World and/or keep it for themselves so as to improve the local community. The perfect example of this is broadband. This was brought to South Korea by America but the latter now has a broadband speed which is less than ten percent of that of the former.

Another important factor is the fact that the Emerging Markets are finding themselves at the start of the larger economic development cycle. This means there are many investment opportunities for capital to be allocated against thus resulting in the opportunity for these countries to manage quick economic growth and, thereby, development. This then leads to the continuous loop as quoted by Miton, “Investment spending creates employment which in turn boosts income growth and subsequently consumption. This then further stimulates investment spending, and so on. It is only once the number of easily exploitable investment opportunities starts to diminish, that economies slow and move on to the growth paths typically experienced by the mature economies of today’s world.”

Despite the last bit, Emerging Markets still have a lot going for them:

* EM debt ratios and fiscal deficits are less than half the level of those in developed countries.

* Average debt to GDP for EM economies stands at only 33% compared to 104% of GDP for DM in 2013.

* Since early 2008 DM have experienced 25 sovereign downgrades, compared with 21 upgrades in emerging markets in 2010.

* Growing differential in favour of emerging markets - 5.8% for emerging markets vs advanced economies potential growth of 1.6%.

* “We can rely on stimulating domestic demand to stabilise and further grow the Chinese economy,” Premier Wen Jiabao, Bloomberg, 4 October, 2010.

Nonetheless, anyone who invests in Emerging Markets must not lie back too much as there are risks which are not so apparent as they are in the Old Developed World. For a start, it is a lot harder for an investor who is not familiar with these markets to find a company that they will feel comfortable with. This is because the economies of these countries are comparatively immature when compared to those of the developed world and so the natural course of who survives and who is killed off has not yet been completed. There is also the issue of transparency and good governance. This is taken for granted in economies which are fully developed but it cannot be taken do in those of the Emerging Markets.

Despite the potential pitfalls, however, there is good money to be made from the Emerging Markets and the risk/reward ratio looks quite good. Without doubt, there will be volatility but the trend will be upward. Any short term hiccups are only for day traders to worry about. People who are in it for the long term should not lose any sleep over it. The continued low interest rates in the West will continue to encourage more money towards the Emerging Markets and until this changes and volatility hits unacceptable levels then the New World Order should definitely be part of your portfolio.

The above data and research was compiled from sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For more information please contact Paul Gambles on [email protected]

MAIL OPINION: By Shana Kongmun

Spelling bees and shoes

I was recently honored with an invitation from the Rotary Club Chiang Mai North to officiate a spelling bee, enunciate? We discussed the correct word and couldn’t really quite come up with an answer. To our British friends, a spelling bee is simply a spelling contest where, in this case, students from 11 Municipal schools had to spell an English word after to listening to me pronounce it.

Something that proved rather difficult for many students as they had never really heard a native English speaker actually speak the words. Puzzle proved to be tough but every single kid got coconut right. Easy to pronounce and easy to figure out.

Most of these children come from poorer families and as such, don’t necessarily have every opportunity offered to those from the wealthier schools. Such as access to shoes. The Rotary Club members were quite concerned that several of the students did not have any shoes and are now talking about raising funds to buy shoes for the children at schools around the city. Certainly an admirable goal.

But, the truth is, kids can live without shoes. It may affect their feet but it won’t affect their lives like going without a decent English speaking teacher will do. It’s a sad fact that these schools cannot afford to hire native English speaking teachers to give their students the exposure they need to learn English properly.

It’s also a sad fact that Chiang Mai has many retired native English speaking people who would love to volunteer their time and energy to helping these kids but cannot because they are on retirement visas that do not allow them to work, even volunteer work for free. I realize these policies are formulated at a much higher level than Chiang Mai but it seems to me a foolish waste of a very valuable resource to let these people’s skills and talents go to waste.

These retirees are not going to be taking a job from someone since these schools cannot afford to hire teachers. And the truth is, they would love to be able to help these underprivileged kids but most are afraid they will lose their visas and be forced out of the country should they do so.

Perhaps a concerted effort from local and provincial levels to the authorities that be in Bangkok could offer some changes, for surely it is in everyone’s best interest? The future of this country, like everywhere, lies in the children and it seems that Thailand should offer its children every possible opportunity.

How does your garden grow?: By Eric Danell,Dokmai Garden

Are there any Thai willows?

Willows are quite conspicuous in Europe, often planted near ponds and streams. The bark is also an original source of aspirin (salicylic acid, after the genus name Salix, Salicaceae), a folk medicine with proven medicinal effects by reducing fever, head ache and to prevent heart attacks.

Many settlers here in Chiang Mai may have a romantic childhood memory of a meandering stream bordered with weeping willows – are there any tropical substitutes? Yes! Here in Lanna you can find the native Salix tetrasperma growing along streams. It is currently in blossom, but like with so many other indigenous Thai plants, you can hardly buy it anywhere, as the trade and current garden fashion promotes imports, mainly South American plants. The medicinal use of willow is not confined to Europe, as the Thais found the same properties in their willow. Its range encompasses India to the Philippines. The timber is too soft for any serious construction.

Like so many other willows, this is a fast growing tree reaching 15-20 m, although my experience from Dokmai garden is that you may have to watch out for butterfly larvae feeding on it. At first I was content having clouds of the beautifully orange Leopard butterfly (Phalantha phalantha) around it, but the willow kept losing its leaves and growth ceased so eventually I transferred the larvae to a mango which may do as food too.

If you manage to find a Thai willow seedling you can plant it in a moist section, or irrigate it when it gets dry. It is actually a good plant for preventing soil erosion. Another option is to take woody cuttings of a mature tree, plant the cuttings in compost or sand, keep watering until new leaves emerge and then plant it. I have had limited success with this technique.

Another willow is Salix babylonica which is native to southern China. It is sometimes planted in Southeast Asian gardens, and can be distinguished from S. tetrasperma by its much narrower elaves (less than 2 cm).

How does your garden grow?: By Eric Danell,Dokmai Garden

Fire in Chiang Mai

A Chiang Mai gardener's reality. This was four meters from our Hibiscus hedge,
and no water pumps working due to an intentional electricity cut.

For a while I was optimistic that there was a trend in less fires this year. During the past few days the arsonists caught up with their reputation. Of course, the Chiang Mai lowlands are fire-prone habitats, but natural fires would occur once every 5-15 years, not every year at the same spot like now. I have tried to be understanding, thinking that poor people may not know better, or that poor people can not pay for workers or gasoline to mow the weeds. However, in the even poorer Isaan in Northeastern Thailand people do not burn like in the Stone Age, they are open to the Thai researchers’ advice and the Isaan air quality is as good as European standards. Therefore I have to accept the fact that it is utter stubbornness that keeps Chiang Mai wrapped in carcinogenic smoke, driving tourists and their dollars away from town.

One day in early March the Hang Dong electric company cut the electricity to make an electrical installation for seven hours at temperatures peaking at +37C! This is a time when the fire hazard is classified as ’Extreme’, and we should need our electrical water pumps to save our buildings. Indeed, that day we had two roaring fires nearby, and many neighbouring lands were damaged. At Dokmai Garden we were lucky having the wind from the east, so smoke and heat went away. I do wonder what is going on in governmental officials’ minds when they turn off the electricity for seven hours during the hot season? We got a notice one day ahead, but such a serious electricity cut would need a week of preparations, or should preferably be postponed until the rainy season. Rich people can always replace their ruined wines and sirloins, or turn on their back-up systems, but the local villagers were quite upset, remarking that hundreds of families’ milk and minced meat would be spoilt, and some lost a day’s income because they were forced to stay at home from work to guard their property against the fires.

How does your garden grow?: By Eric Danell,Dokmai Garden

Papilionanthe teres – a grandfather of so many ornamental orchids

The national flower of Singapore is ’Vanda Miss Joaquim’. It is a beautiful hybrid that appeared after a spontaneous crossing of Papilionanthe hookeriana and P. teres in a Singapore garden. For a city-nation like Singapore, a man-made orchid could very well be selected as the national flower.

One if its parents, Papilionanthe teres, is a natural orchid native to India, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. This means it is a monsoon orchid, and therefore fit for the Chiang Mai climate. It has been used in many crossings to make new orchid varieties. A peculiar trait with this orchid is that it is an intermediate between a terrestrial orchid and a tree (epiphytic) orchid. Like with Vanilla orchids, you should plant the lower part of this orchid in the ground, and let it trail up the trunk of a tree.

 It can reach two meters. The cylindrical tapering leaves (called terete in botany language, hence the Latin name ’teres’) indicate that this species can endure sun. Indeed you should select a deciduous tree, as sunshine stimulates blossom. At Dokmai Garden we have recently taken several cuttings, ca 30 cm long, from a mother plant and transplanted them to the bases of teak trees. The cuttings began making flowers instantly.

After this initial planting, you do not have to worry about any other care, but let the orchid follow the rythm of our monsoon climate, keeping it dry in the dry season. Lazy man’s garden can be spectacular!

Day Tripper: Mae Taeng valley waterfall

The calcium carbonate deposited on the rocks from the spring makes it glow white in the sun.

By Heather Allen

Even in the heat of the summer this spring fed waterfall has cool water flowing down the white rocks. The leafy green forest thrives here and the peacefulness of the place is punctuated with the laughter of the children who visit this waterfall and love to climb down the falls.

At first glance, it seemed slippery, but, shamed into pulling off my shoes and joining in after seeing a smiling little boy that couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5 cheerfully frolicking around, I found the rocks surprisingly easy to climb. The rather porous rocks covered in calcium carbonate made for a good grip and the only pitfall was the occasional sinkhole in the falls. But, with phone firmly grasped overhead, and a careful treading around the holes, I managed to keep all but my feet and ankles dry. The same couldn’t be said for the kids who eagerly slid down the falls, to climb back up and do it again. Or lay on the rocks to feel the cool water rushing over them.

The falls are fed by a beautiful spring with a pool that is beautiful in its own right, called the Spring of 7 Colors or Nam Phu Jet Si, the pool showed emerald green depths flecked with shiny bits we guessed were mica or pyrite but turned out to be calcium carbonate which the water is rich in. Many Thais, elderly and young alike, used the scoop to get water from the spring and carefully bathe their feet in it. I hesitated to ask the purpose but since so many did it, I am sure there was a reason. Perhaps they feel the mineral rich waters have healing powers.

There is a cave temple further in, but we didn’t manage to make the hike. I plan on going back again to bathe my own feet after making the hike to the temple.
And where is this wondrous place? Bua Thong Waterfall can be found about 45 km outside Chiang Mai on the road to Phrao - highway 1001.

The rocks give a good grip much to the enjoyment of these little boys.

The legend associated with the pool is posted nearby,
be sure take the time to read it before scooping some water out for yourself.