Pattaya enjoys special administrative status in a manner that is completely different anywhere else in Thailand. The city is a local administration having been granted the status back in 1978. This means that the city has the capacity to elect a mayor although this is something that was granted to other municipalities in 2000 under the revision of the Thesaban Act. Previously, Pattaya had been granted the status of being a ‘special city’.
Being regarded as a local administration was granted to Pattaya as it is viewed as being one of the major resort cities in Thailand. It was felt that special rules were required in order to allow the city to maximise its potential as some laws that were in force in other areas of the Kingdom were not viewed as being appropriate for Pattaya. The ability to have the power to set a limited amount of laws and to be exempt from others is what has helped to make Pattaya the city that we all know today.
Most of the rules are focused around the traditional entertainment centres including Walking Street. This allows bars, restaurants and clubs to remain open for longer hours and serve alcohol. In addition, the mayor is responsible for making policies with regards to the overall management of the city, organising public services as well as autonomous management of the city’s workforce. This allows proposals to passed and decisions made far faster than many in other cities.
The ability to act quickly and respond to the ever changing environment in Pattaya is essential. The city is forever evolving and this even occurs from one season to the next. The evolving nature of Pattaya is what gives it much of its appeal and City Hall’s ability to make fast decisions is required to facilitate this. Without the independent status, the city wouldn’t have the capacity to react to the ever-changing situation.
The only time in recent years that this has been directly challenged was during the Coup d’état which took place in 2014. The subsequent military rulers took control of the country as a whole and removed the mayor’s powers. Many argue that the current government under the authority of Prayut Chan-o-cha, the former General who lead the coup, still retains significant control of the city and its policy making. Indeed, the army and navy are frequently seen enforcing regulations.
Regardless of your political thoughts, there is plenty of evidence that policy making in the city and the city’s ability to act to problems, is still controlled by City Hall. For example, infrastructure projects such as the repair of Pattaya Beach, the tunnel on Sukhumvit Road, and the attempts, although not always successful, to reduce flash flooding in the city have taken place far faster than they would have if they had required central government approval.
The fact that the city has a level of flexibility that is granted by the political status helps to make the city more appealing to tourists. As we mentioned, Pattaya is a city that constantly evolves and whilst just a few years ago the tourists were predominantly from Europe and the US, this quickly changed to Russians and then the Chinese that the city welcomes today. Different types of tourist have different demands and without flexibility, they city may miss out on the influx of these tourists.
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Those living and working Pattaya are the biggest beneficiaries of these more autonomous powers as they get the benefits every day. For example, the tunnel on Sukhumvit Road has reduced congestion around the Pattaya Klang junction even though there was chaos whilst the improvements were being made. Infrastructure improvements help to make the city more appealing to expats as the city is becoming more and more a first world city. This makes it a better place to live especially for those with young families.
It could very easily be argued that Pattaya is, in many ways, a more politically stable city than any other in Thailand. Internal politics play less of a role at City Hall, which in effect, is a relatively small organisation in political terms. Political stability is what everyone wants locals, expats and tourists and the more politically stable the country or city is, the more chance it has of growing and developing.
Of course, all of these factors help the real estate industry enormously. The more appealing a city is, the more people that want to live and visit there, which in turn increases demand for property and land. Increased demand inevitably leads to increased prices which potentially creates capital growth if other market conditions such as exchange rates remain constant. Capital growth makes the city more appealing to investors which once again drives demand in a cyclical manner.
It would be foolish to say that this has always been the case in Pattaya especially in recent years. However, after a lull, we are now starting to witness an increase in the number of new developments. Bang Saray, in particular, is an area that has witnessed huge growth in recent years along with other areas to both the north and south of the city. Developer confidence is always a good sign for any market so this is great news for the city.
Another area where we have seen significant growth is with investment properties. One factor in this is due to the increase in short-term rentals and the strict enforcing of the rules governing this. The potential to purchase units in what are effectively hotels gives investors the opportunity to reach out to the short-term holiday makers. In return, they are receiving guaranteed rental returns for a given period. This again suggests confidence, not only from developers but from major international hotels.
To conclude, the special administrative status that has been granted to Pattaya has given the city the potential to develop and evolve far faster than it could have done if controlled by central government. This has been to the benefit of all parties including locals, expats and tourists. City Hall deserves much credit for the efforts that they have made and surely we all want the city to continue to flourish.
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