The World Bank announced this week they estimate Thailand’s recent devastating floods have cost the country more than $45 billion. Now consider that, between 1990 and 2008, the World Bank also says all of South Asia lost $45 billion in damages, because of natural disasters, and you can imagine how tragic that same amount of loss, because of Thailand’s recent floods, is to a country so small.
One quarter of Thailand’s rice crop is presumed to have been wiped out, more than half of the country’s industrial estates were, or still are, under water, international companies are considering moving their operations out of Thailand, and tourism — vital to Thailand’s economy — has fallen by more than 20% since flooding started.
As a long-term resident of Thailand though, what always strikes me about Thais is how they move through every natural, and man-made, disaster with such grace, and just keep on keeping on, while all the time smiling.
Motorcycle taxi drivers on my street lost more than two week’s income when my neighborhood flooded. Most of these men, and a couple of women, make less than $400 a month. To lose half of that is a severe hardship on their families. But, when the floods drained, and they could return to work, they greeted me as always, waving and smiling, telling me they had missed me, and asking where I was going.
The lady at the end of my street who sells bags of cut-up fresh fruit also disappeared when flood water hit two feet. She’s just returned and couldn’t wait to find out how I had managed in the floods, and was I okay. (Thais are as worried about foreigners in their country as they are about themselves, if not more so, as they figure it’s more difficult to us, being alien to the culture, to manage when bad things happen).
Wading through flood water passed my knees on the first day my neighborhood flooded, Thais waded towards me, saw my foreign face, and smiled and said “Amazing Thailand”, (the old slogan of Thailand’s Tourism Authority, persuading people to visit Thailand). Even when things get rough, Thais have an amazing capacity to smile through it all.
Even my wealthy friends, well-educated and world-wise, when seeing their country on international news that showed boats being rowed down main streets in Bangkok, and inept politicians being screamed at by residents sick of living in meters of flood water, just laughed and said “It’s a crazy country”.
So, when you read Thailand has lost $45 billion in this whole mess…… $45 billion? What’s that?
Peanuts. Thailand will get through it. It always does. And the country will be even better off for it.