President's Message September 2021
Dear Friends and Members of the STCC
Having returned from a summer holiday to Europe, I have to admit that I was astonished by the level of normalcy prevalent in Switzerland and Germany. Switzerland has always used to be on the top of international rankings such as for innovation, economic performance, personal freedom and prosperity, and now it can add managing Covid-19 to the list. Just recently, it has been ranked as one of the best places to be in the current phase of the pandemic (source Bloomberg). Sadly enough, Thailand and some other countries in SEA ended up at the bottom of the list. One could say it is a result of the careful ways Swiss politicians attempted to relax lockdown and economic freezing mandates, without sacrificing public health and safety. Unlike heavily debated and complex rescue packages adopted by the US and European governments, Switzerland pursued simple and cheap measures to keep the economy going. It extended unemployment benefits to self-employed and regular employees and provided bridge loans to small and medium business to keep them in business. Overall, it has been a smart and pragmatic approach and you can see and feel the result when you travel around Switzerland.
As I write this column in a closed-up hotel room as part of the Thai government quarantine programme, I had lots of time to watch the unfolding tragedy in war-torn Afghanistan. History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes lot – Mark Twain once said, and as we are witnessing the end of one of the longest lasting wars in US history, there is some wisdom in it. After Vietnam and Iraq, another senseless war is about to come to an end. Over a 20-year period, the US spent 2 trillion USD to keep the Taliban at bay, of that 800 billion USD on direct warfighting costs. Over 3,500 coalition troops lost their lives and there are 20,000 wounded US soldiers who need to be cared for the rest of their lives. Overall, the war has killed 170,000 people, of which 50,000 were civilians. The US army left behind military equipment of around 1 billion USD, courtesy of US tax payers, which leaves the Taliban militarily better equipped than a number of NATO states. You can watch the display of sophisticated weapons on Twitter tweets of Taliban fighters, which is also heavily used as communication tools amongst the self-proclaimed Gotteskrieger. We live in a remarkably strange world, as Twitter barred the account of the former President and Commander in Chief of the USA, whereas the enemies and classified terrorists can freely make use of it. As tragic as it is, one can sum up this US-made disaster in a single sentence: It took the USA four presidents, 2 trillion dollars, thousands of lives and 20 years to replace the Taliban with the Taliban. Or as CNN host and best-selling author Fareed Zakaria eloquently put it in one of his shows: There is no elegant way to lose a war.
Thailand is also going through some tough economic times and the lockdown measures are now taking its toll on the economy. With an annual trade volume of 10 billion USD, Thailand is Switzerland’s second most important trading partner in South East Asia, after Singapore. With over 200 companies with ties to Switzerland operating in Thailand and employing roughly 60,000 employees, the STCC has many incentive to stand by Thailand during these difficult times. As I come from an educator’s family and am a firm believer in higher education, I am extremely pleased about the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich and the STCC for an exchange programme for Swiss interns in STCC member companies. It will allow students from the ETH Zurich to gain meaningful working experience with leading Swiss companies in Thailand. DKSH Thailand signed up as the first company to take part in this programme. If you or your company share the same vision and want to be part of this programme, please contact our office. We would be delighted to provide you with relevant information. It is another way to strengthen the business and economic ties between Thailand and Switzerland
In mid-September we should be able to officially inaugurate our new STCC office container at the premises of the Swiss Embassy, which will be another milestone in the success story of the STCC. We are grateful to our members and our sponsors who made this story possible. Given the celebrations of 90 years diplomatic and business relations between Switzerland and Thailand in 2021, it will further strengthen our mission to foster Swiss investments in Thailand.
With my best wishes.
Bruno G. Odermatt-Maag
Contact the President:
Bruno G. Odermatt-Maag, CPCU
Tel: +66 2 652 1911