President of the Malaysian Business Chamber of Cambodia (MBCC) Teh Sing, who arrived in Phnom Penh in the early 1990s, has witnessed a firsthand the transformation of the Kingdom – from a struggling post-conflict nation into a sizzling economy in Asean.
In an interview with The Post, the veteran businessman shares a glimpse of the exciting journey that is Malaysians’ contribution to the Cambodian economy.
How has the MBCC contributed to the development of the business sector in the Kingdom?
The MBCC operates as a non-profit association and in a non-political manner. Our main objective is promoting and encouraging Malaysian businesses to establish and maintain the highest standards of business, management and professional practice in order to upkeep the image of Malaysia.
In addition, we provide a forum for monthly meetings, discussions and interaction for Malaysian businesses and government personnel in Cambodia. MBCC continues to encourage Malaysian investment in Cambodia and foster good relations with the business community in the Kingdom.
How has the business landscape changed in Cambodia since the MBCC started operations in February 1993?
The business landscape has grown exponentially since 1993. A case in point is that of the beer business. In 1993 Cambrew Limited, a Malaysian company, operated the only brewery in Cambodia. Today there are more than six.
Another case in point is the banking industry. While in 1993 there were less than 10 commercial banks, this has ballooned to 51 today.
An estimated 800 Malaysian companies, both large and small, are currently operating in Cambodia, supported by some 3,000 Malaysians residing here. What is driving Malaysian companies to venture into the Kingdom?
It started with our former Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad who introduced the “Prosper Thy Neighbours Policy” when he led the first group of Malaysian investors to Cambodia.
Further with the Cambodian government’s pro-business investment policies, many new Malaysian businesses were attracted to invest in Cambodia.
A new phenomenon is also visible – a new generation of young Malaysians are entering cutting edge businesses, from fintech and digital technology to professional services. How do you view this growing trend?
Greater growth for sure!
Many Malaysians are helming top positions in Cambodian and international companies, especially in the banking and finance sector. Are Malaysians exporting their expertise?
With regards to the banking and finance sector, Campu Bank [Cambodian Public Bank] was the first Malaysian bank in Cambodia in 1992. It started with only one branch and today has 31, and these are now headed by Cambodians.
This itself is a great example of Malaysians exporting their expertise.
Could you share how Malaysia-Cambodia trade relations are evolving, especially at the private sector level?
Malaysia was the largest investor here for more than a decade until being overtaken by China. Malaysian businesses are well recognised by the Cambodian government as well as the Cambodian business community here.
The good trade relations between us can only improve as we currently have a very active Malaysian Ambassador [Eldeen Husaini], who goes the extra mile to further strengthen this relationship.
The “Double Taxation Avoidance” agreement is still on the table. When do you think this will materalise and how important is it for the Malaysian business community?
It is definitely very important and helpful for our Malaysian business community here. However, with a new Malaysian government formed in March this year, I am in no position to speculate as to when this will materalise.
What advice do you have for budding Malaysian entrepreneurs on this 63rd National Day of Malaysia?
Having been here since 1992, my advice is that if you come here for the long haul, you will definitely find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.