Cambodia Investment Review
Since the easing of entry requirements and the lifting of quarantine restrictions, Cambodia has witnessed an uptick in the number of visiting business delegations visiting the Kingdom both regionally and internationally.
International Investors have been buoyed by the introduction of the new Investment Law, as well as recent announcements of strong growth forecasts for 2022-2023 by the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and the National Bank of Cambodia.
Strong forecast in growth, during economic headwinds, has meant there have been more expressions of interest by international businesses and investors to establish a business presence or to invest in Cambodia.
To read more about Cambodia’s 2022 economic forecast click here.
In addition, as more emerging economies have been plagued by their own domestic political challenges, there is a greater awareness, albeit belatedly, that Cambodia has doggedly maintained its communal peace and political stability.
Cambodia’s changing investment narrative
Is the international business community finally beginning to get past the persistently negative and sometimes distorted or biased headlines about Cambodia, to take a serious and more objective look at one of the fastest growing economies in the world before the Covid-19 pandemic?
Interestingly, there also appears to be attempts by some resident expatriate businessmen and professionals to better organize or associate themselves to avoid missing out on collaboration opportunities with international businesses and investors that are either returning, or taking a fresh look at the Kingdom.
Many have decided to become associate members of established chambers of commerce regardless of their nationalities, yet others are considering different pathways to offer alternative choices to international businesses and investors.
Cambodia Investment Review spoke up with a few of them recently to find out more.
Concurring that Cambodia has done exceptionally well during the Covid pandemic, a long-time resident and 28-year veteran in the garments manufacturing industry in the Kingdom, was Mr. Albert Tan of Gladpeer Garment Factory.
He said businesses should not miss out on collaboration and downstream opportunities with international investors and manufacturers that are considering establishing their operations in Cambodia.
“We have to better organize ourselves, to present alternative options to international interests, to be ready to collaborate with them,” Tan said.
Albert was also the former President of the Singapore Club Cambodia (SCC), a social club whose primary mandate is to help Singaporeans in Cambodia maintain their bonds with Singapore.
“Some Singaporean businessmen and expatriates here are already forming their own informal business interest groups or to associate with other chambers or foreign communities in order to do so,” he added.
Cambodia a foreigner-friendly business hub
Another long-time veteran in Cambodia’s business circuit, Mr. David Sim of Attwood Import and Export Co Ltd also echoed similar sentiments.
“It would be an injustice to neglect the strong Singapore brand in Cambodia, especially the efforts of many in the past years, if we do not try to leverage on it to help fellow Singaporean businessmen and investors already in the Kingdom, as well as those looking to enter the Cambodia market,” Sim said.
David Sim was one of the past presidents of SCC from 2009 to 2011. He added that the mandate for SCC has always been social, and many Singaporean businessmen and entrepreneurs prefer a more inclusive and business-oriented vehicle.
Moreover, many foreign nationals do not necessarily participate in the social or business clubs of their own communities for various reasons.
“Some Singaporean businessmen and professionals here are comfortable with the usual social networking activities; others prefer more inclusive business networking,” Sim explained.
“In fact, a few prefer to see a more business-oriented option that prioritizes the collective interest over individual self-interests, more organic with a sharper focus on trade, investment and so on. Let’s see how that develops,” he added.
A very well-respected Singaporean banker who is all too familiar with Southeast Asia and in particular Cambodia, Mr. Ong Teong Hoon, shared that having an informal business networking group or groups is not inimical to the SCC or other established foreign business chambers, and could in fact be a good complement.
Mr. Ong explained that, “The SCC takes care of the social needs of Singaporean businessmen and professionals and their families in Cambodia, and helps to ensure that they will continue to have strong ties with their home, Singapore. It is an important role that they will continue to play.”
Ong is also the Director and Shareholders’ Representative of Phillip Bank Cambodia, the only Singapore-owned commercial bank in the Kingdom.
“But at the same time, the business needs of Singaporean businesses and investors, whether already here or looking to enter the Cambodian market, cannot be ignored, and a more inclusive approach ought to be welcomed,” Mr. Ong said.
“Having options, whether informal groups or better organized ones, offers them a choice. Choices are good, especially when investor and business interest in the Kingdom is on the ascendency,” he added.
Since 1994, Cambodia has recorded a cumulative total of $41 billion of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) over the last 27 years.
To read more about Cambodia’s FDI flows click here.
According to many this strong capital inflow is a direct results of three most favorable aspects being: a dollarized economy, 100% business ownership for foreign investors, and no capital control.