With news reports highlighting young Malaysians becoming victims of online job scams to work in Cambodia, many are curious and fearful of the country.
Cambodia, with a population of 16.9 million, is one of the fastest growing emerging markets in the world. About 56% of its people are aged between 15 and 35.
Sin Chew Daily talked to a senior Malaysian who has been in Cambodia for 20 years to share his insight about investing in Cambodia.
In the eyes of Malaysian investors, Cambodia is a new frontier full of potentials.
For Oriental Bank founder Datuk Phan Yin Tong, who has lived in Cambodia for 20 years, Cambodians are friendly and simple people.
“After settling down here, you will love this country.
“When I first came here, my impression of Cambodia was that it was like my hometown Ipoh where there were many old shophouses and old bungalows,” he explained.
Phan quit as the head of Public Bank Bhd’s Indochinese operations, a position he had held since 2002, in December 2020.
Many tended to have the impression that Cambodia was still a war-torn country.
Phan’s mother cried and begged him to return home then.
“I only called my mom one month after I settled down in Cambodia. I explained to her that Cambodia was not like what she watched in the movies. My family members changed their perception of the country after I invited them over for a visit,” he said.
Many Malaysians sent by companies to work in Cambodia ended up starting their own businesses in that country, he said.
Having spent 40 years in the banking industry, Phan focuses on financial development in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.
He felt that Cambodia was actually more progressive in drafting new policies and implementing them.
Hence, Cambodia enjoys some form of advantage in luring foreign investments.
“Cambodia is a country full of young people. Hence it is fast and bold in executing plans.
“I personally forecast that the country’s gross domestic product will expand more than 5% this year, and even faster next year,” he asserted.
Except for Myanmar, ASEAN countries are experiencing rapid economic growth, thus requiring huge investments in many sectors.
“The advantage of Cambodia lies with the fact that it is a fast-growing country with many young citizens.
“Both China and the United States are trying to expand their influences here. But the financial assistance offered by China, especially through the One Belt One Road initiative, appears to have gained an upper hand,” he said.
Bilateral trade between China and ASEAN reached RM3.873 billion (US$878.2 billion) last year, an increase of 28.1% compared to the previous year.
ASEAN is China’s largest trading partner for the second year.
Instead of making quick profits, Phan encouraged Malaysian investors to venture into middle- and long-term investments in Cambodia.
He is optimistic that Cambodia will be leaving the league of least developed countries by 2024 to be a middle-income country.
The rise of middle-income group over the last seven years has been phenomenal.
Phan suggested that investors target this category of consumers in Cambodia.
“Young people are willing to spend and the market demand is huge. This is the best time to invest,” he said.