Whether you like it or not, the election of Donald Trump will affect expats teaching in Thailand a lot. Or... it won't change a thing... which will be just as bad for many people!
Oh, and I'm not taking a political view with this article - just looking into the future.
(I have a degree in Economics and Public Affairs - which doesn't make me an expert... but it does make me qualified to guess about the future!)
To see the future we must examine the past...
In the last two decades in Thailand, there has been a massive increase in prosperity. And not just here, but over much of Asia. Home ownership is rocketing off the charts. Fancy car dealerships are on every street in every major town. People have ‘stuff' now - even stuff they didn't think they needed like big TVs and fancy phones and evenings out at posh restaurants.
Anyone harbouring ideas about Thailand being ‘third world' is a fool. It may look like it sometimes because of the climate here, but that's as ‘third world' as it gets. Thailand is busy getting on with it - building roads, creating wealth and rewarding educated Thais with a golden future in industry.
Whatever your views on Thaksin Shinawatra, he dragged Thailand up by the bootstraps and made it prosperous for businesses and a generous place to do business in.
The Yankee Doodle Dandy is angry.
But who really made all of this possible? Who paid for all these cars and houses and TVs? Who financed these monstrously luxurious shopping malls that are being built at the same alarming rate as a new neighbourhood Family Mart?
The Americans did. Or more specifically, the working class Americans did. The impact of corporate-driven ‘globalization' has made Thailand a whole lot richer. Yes - ‘globalization' is another word for ‘cheap labour.'
And here we are today... 2017 - the year of the rebirth of American nationalism and protectionism. And what may take the Trump administration eight years (two terms) to get going will last for generations because Americans will love getting those jobs back and won't vote for another Democratic president for decades... or until they take their economic security for granted .. again!
In South East Asia, only the Philippines will suffer more than Thailand. GDP (gross domestic product) will fall, inflation will rise, Thai government policies that react to these events will cause a lack of confidence in investment.
If you think that Trump was all bluster with his foreign trade threats then think again. His banner proclaimed ‘America First', riding his horse into the White House and industrial Thailand will be among one of the hardest hit casualties.
In my view, businesses hoping to export their jobs out of North America are going to be subject to crippling economic blackmail not to do it. Those already harbouring the hundreds of thousands of Asian (and Mexican) wage earners will find important contracts impossible to come by. They will be penalised in every way possible until they finally capitulate and bring manufacturing jobs back to American soil.
If you think that the president doesn't have the legal power or the political mandate then you're fooling yourself. Not everything goes through the books when it comes to trade deals with foreign governments. And actually, under U.S. law, Trump can impose 15 percent tariffs for 150 days without prior Congressional approval in cases where it has a ‘large and serious' balance of payments deficit with another nation, such as... er, Thailand.
More seriously, if China keeps screwing around with currency manipulation then the entire Asian continent will be made to pay. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal may be kept alive to blackmail China into playing nice - we'll have to wait and see.
South Korea is already on Trump's radar and that isn't a place you want to be. I personally think that India and Brazil will benefit from a Trump world, but that's another article.
Back to Thailand!
In the next few years, Thailand will turn back into an isolationist nation of their own and full employment will once again only be possible because of the agricultural sector. You thought that Thailand was isolationist now? Well, it is - but only culturally. When entire industrial estates turn into ghost towns and the trickle down effects of all those closures turn those towns into ‘Detroits', all the luxuries that Thais have gotten used to, over the last twenty years, are going to be harder to pay for.
That Thai ‘middle class' which has boosted the school roll calls will slip away. The government will cut down the (currently massive) spending on education. Teachers won't get paid and their numbers will diminish. Public interest in education will wane and the foreigners won't be needed. Neglect and indifference will result in the remaining hardcore army of stubborn expats to be governed by rogue agencies and terrible working conditions. (Yes, much worse than they are now!)
Realistically, in ten years time, I'm guessing that half of the people who are here teaching English now, will be gone. There won't be the funding to keep them at public schools and parents will baulk at the idea of paying for them at private institutions.
The age of ‘globalization' is being voted out of Europe and America and its expulsion from the Western world will cripple the Eastern one. So, as I said at the start of this article...
"Whether you like it or not, the election of Donald Trump will affect expats teaching in Thailand a lot. Or... it won't change a thing... which will be just as bad for many people!"
What's your exit strategy? Mine is to be old and die!