Thirty years on, Cambodia remains a magnate for savvy Malaysian investors

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Bilateral trade between both countries is on a strong growth trajectory and Cambodia's rice remains a major export to Malaysia.

Malaysian investors’ interest in Cambodian economy shows no sign of wilting, even after 30 years of engagement. Instead, a renewed interest of doing business in the Kingdom, especially among the new generation of Malaysians, continues to pervade.

The ease of doing business and the confidence in Cambodia’s economic growth, has made the Kingdom a lucrative market for Malaysian investors for decades.

Across the business spectrum, Malaysian investments has proliferated into a host of industries – food and beverage, hospitality, tax and financial services; and trading in fast-moving consumer goods.

In addition, Malaysian talents are also driving the financial industry – from banks to insurance.

At least five top Malaysian banks are serving the Cambodian market at present – Maybank, Public Bank, CIMB Bank PLC, RHB Indo China and Hong Leong - are early comers to the Kingdom.

Smart Axiata Co., Ltd, and edotco Cambodia Ltd (tower builders), part of Malaysia’s telecommunications operator Axiata Group Bhd, are also playing a key role.

“The young Malaysians see a synergy here [between Cambodian businessmen). They click naturally [and] the environment is very conducive. We can only see the business growing here,” Malaysian Business Council of Cambodia president Teh Sing told The Post.

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Teh Sing says Cambodia's prudent economic policies have been the cornerstone for its remarkable success story.

His optimism is backed by strong bilateral trade figures and multiple other reasons that continue to woo Malaysian business community to the resilient Cambodian economy, which remains an envy of the outside world.

According to the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation, two-way trade was between both nations stood at $425.6 million in 2016, rose to $455.8 million in 2017 and swell to $558.6 million last year, and in the first six months of this year, trade figures touched $422.6 million.

Chemical products, rice, garment and textile, petroleum products, footwear, palm oil and machinery are some of the main products that being traded between both countries.

Long-standing bilateral relations, proximity between both countries, mutual respect for one another and the ease of doing business have been major pull factors for Malaysians to continue their investments in the Kingdom.

But above all Cambodia’s policy in engaging the private sector through its “Rectangular Strategy” has powered its economy for successive growth and provided the much-need confidence to foreigner investors.

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Among the key exports, made-in Cambodia garments, top the list.

“The government is pro business. The very fact that it is the only country in Asean where the Prime Minister [Hun Sen] meets the private sector twice a year.

“This is something very unique that made Cambodia so successful with seven per cent average growth for the last 20 years. Seven per cent is something which you don’t just get, it needs lot of planning. The private sector engagement under the Rectangular Strategy has proven successful.

“Cambodia has been doing it for so long and that is why investors are still comfortable and that’s why Malaysians are still coming.

“That is the strength of this country,” added Teh Sing, who has been working in Cambodia for almost 27 years.

The government’s “The Rectangular Strategy” aims to promote growth, employment, equity and efficiency across the country.

The nation is reaping the rewards from the long-term strategy now.

Cambodia enjoys steadfast economic growth, employment is on the rise and so is the middle class.

Backed by strong demographic profile and fast growing consumerism, Cambodia’s growth engine is not likely to slowdown anytime soon.

And, as Asean moves towards zero tariff regime, Malaysian investors are not likely to shy away from Cambodia.

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