Yes, life can be beautiful - even amid the chaos
For people from all walks of life, it requires a lot of effort to convince themselves that life can be beautiful these days.Street-food sellers are fretting about the increase in cooking gas price. Exporters are straining to convince themselves that the euro-zone crisis will end soon and the US economy recover fast, so that their businesses resume growth. Policymakers are bracing for the new parliamentary session starting on August 1, and expecting big battles (hopefully, for the sake of the nation).
But still, life can be beautiful.
Just look at the tech geeks. There's no time for the world's worries while they wait anxiously for the iPhone 5, especially following the (intentionally?) leaked photo of the device last week.
At my office where workers are suffering in near-freezing temperatures, colleagues are cheering themselves up by commenting on photos of a beloved dog shared through Facebook.
There has been chaos at Suvarnabhumi Airport this month, but operator Airports of Thailand has been clever enough to use this as an opportunity to win Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's approval for a third runway. The runway's construction is set to start now, for completion in 2016, and this should help prevent more delays in the future when the two old runways are closed for maintenance.
The whole world is heading for changes, and some (though not all) will be for the better.
The US Federal Reserve Board meeting disappointed global investors by refusing to give any indication of a third round of qualitative easing, commonly known as QE3.
To investors, QE3 would be a boon, driving up share and bond prices.
To policymakers, it could be a headache, injecting more liquidity into the market. Given the low yields of US treasuries, investment funds would shift money to markets with higher returns. Or in other words, Asia. Without the extra inflow, the Bank of Thailand need not flex its muscles to absorb liquidity, which could drive up the baht and further hurt our exporters.
It was understandable that Chicago Federal Reserve president Charles Evans supported more stimulus during his speech last week at the "Sasin Bangkok Forum".
He said that 15 years ago during the Asian crisis, US consumers had absorbed the effects of the sudden appreciation in the dollar. "There are no such consumers in the US anymore," he said. American households are squeezing their budgets and fighting against the gloomy economic outlook, while consumers in Asia enjoy a boom time.
Indeed, whatever the US does to bolster the economic recovery will benefit Thailand in the end. For a country that generates 70 per cent of gross domestic product from exports, we can smile whenever demand in the country that consumes an average 10 per cent of our exports rises.
Thai policymakers are now more worried about the euro zone than the fragile recovery in the US.
On the other hand, some Thai companies see this as an opportunity, as once-expensive assets become affordable. A fund manager said recently that a Thai company which has manufactured products for an Italian firm for decades under the original equipment manufacturing (OEM) scheme is now pondering buying the brand, which has financial troubles.
While in Bangkok last week, International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde also acknowledged that a lot more must be done to solve the crisis. During her speech at the Bank of Thailand, she admitted that this is Asia's era. It seems that time is turning back centuries to when China's power was unquestionable in this region. Deep down, Lagarde understands that Europe, which has been the centre of global civilisation for centuries, will lose its shine for some time.
Though domestic and foreign chaos rage on, many in Thailand are celebrating the 2,600th anniversary of the Lord Buddha's enlightenment, an occasion known as Buddha Jayanti.
Celebrants would love "After Life", the Hollywood flick featuring Liam Neeson and Nina Ricci. Anna (Ricci) wakes after a car accident to find herself in a funeral home. The undertaker (Neeson) tells her that she's dead. She feels "undead" only because she is still clinging onto life: so she is told the truth. Struggling to get out, she finally accepts that she has nothing in her life, and is ready to leave the world. The undertaker feels no guilt as he injects her with embalming fluid. To him, life is painful. Just struggling for air is not living, he says. The Lord Buddha teaches us exactly the same: being born is to suffer from one's sin.
I'd like to end here with the last verse of the old song "The Three Bells". The bells ring three times in Little Jimmy Brown's life: when he is born, when he is married and when he dies...
"Just a lonely bell was ringing
In the little valley town
Twas farewell that it was singing
To our good old Jimmy Brown
And the little congregation
Prayed for guidance from above
Lead us not into temptation,
May his soul find the salvation
Of thy great eternal love"
A salute to those who don't fall for temptation, for that will really make the lives of all truly beautiful.