Call for condo reform to lure foreigners

Call for condo reform to lure foreigners

State urged to make money transfers easy

Prospective Chinese buyers visit the sales gallery for a high-rise condo launched in June 2019 in Bangkok.
Prospective Chinese buyers visit the sales gallery for a high-rise condo launched in June 2019 in Bangkok.

The government has been urged to simplify money transfers and provide more medical staff to support wealthy pensioners if the country wants to boost the economy through foreign property ownership.

Atip Bijanonda, vice-chairman of the Board of Trade of Thailand, said money transfer procedures for foreigners buying condos was currently a tremendous obstacle as the process was very complicated.

"To get a condo transfer, foreigners are required to transfer money from overseas with their own currency and declare or show a foreign exchange transaction certificate to the Lands Department," he said.

This was inconvenient as many foreign buyers had a business in Thailand or had a Thai wife. They had to transfer money out of Thailand and back into the country to buy a condo unit.

"Many countries' governments don't care about inbound money transfers, but they do care about outbound moves," said Mr Atip. "The Thai government should amend this rule."

He said Thai people should not worry that allowing foreign property ownership was treasonous, because Thai people can buy homes in many overseas countries and those nations do not regard selling to foreigners as treason.

"Most Thai properties sold to or preferred by foreigners are in a different segment to Thai buyers. Foreigners frequently choose locations which are not preferred amongst Thais and vice versa," Mr Atip added.

Nonarit Bisonyabut, senior research fellow at Thailand Development Research Institute, said the Thai economy may struggle if it was not driven by the property sector.

"Local [housing] demand will shrink due to the declining trend of population growth," he said. "Skilled labour shortages will also be a problem and we still have no plan to pay back the 1.5-trillion-baht debt," he said.

Mr Nonarit said Thailand was attractive amongst foreigners who sought relocation. He said the country will lure back foreign buyers if the pandemic subsides.

"Attracting long-term residents will provide an enormous revenue boost to the country and stimulate the economy, investment and employment. It will boost the growth of the new S-curve economy as the government hopes," he said.

According to the government's measures to promote property purchases among foreigners, the target group of long-term residents will comprise rich global citizens, remote working professionals in Thailand, wealthy pensioners, and highly-skilled professionals.

The government aims to attract 1 million of them and expects a 1-trillion-baht contribution per year, or 1 million baht per head.

Around 800 billion baht of investment is estimated from 10,000 wealthy global citizens and 80,000 wealthy pensioners, while revenue of roughly 270 billion baht will come from taxes.

Thailand also aims to stimulate the economy of target industries which enable knowledge transfers to the country and boost employment opportunities locally.

"After the measures were approved by the cabinet last month, the next process is about rules and regulations which involve many government agencies and need amendments," said Mr Nonarit.

At present, a service centre of long-term residents is being set up. It will be similar to the Board of Investment, helping to clear all obstacles and coordinate with all related agencies.

By the end of the first quarter or the second quarter of next year, Thailand will start welcoming long-term residents.

"Opportunities come with risks," said Mr Nonarit. "There will be a number of wealthy retirees coming here. We should increase the number of medical staff to support a rising demand from senior people, both foreigners and Thais."

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