Preah Sihanouk – Cambodia’s dominant coastal province – is positioned for future growth as the country’s principal gateway onto the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and global trade routes.
Preah Sihanouk’s rapid development has been the cause for discussion and speculation since the province emerged as a focus for Chinese investment in mid-2017.
Now Sihanoukville is gearing up for another significant development push, fuelled by strong investment into infrastructure, a number of large-scale projects and a resurgent optimism about the province’s future.
At present, the city is home to more than 90 casinos, a host of hotels, condominium developments, retail projects and industrial parks.
Development of the city continues, albeit at a slower pace than witnessed during the height of the construction boom in 2018 and early 2019.
Urban planning is also taking a step forward, with the involvement of Chinese city planners from Shenzhen. Sihanoukville sits at the crossroads of multiple major infrastructure initiatives, including China’s ambitious One-Belt-One-Road project and the Greater Mekong Sub-region Economic Corridors southern route. The model of Shenzhen from being a small fishing port on mainland China 40 years ago to being a huge high-tech industrial city today, has been widely lauded as offering a blueprint for Preah Sihanouk’s development and in this vein the government has employed the Urban Planning and Design Institute of Shenzhen to master plan the province.
The master plan has not yet been released. However, it is likely to be based on a core of improved infrastructure access, especially in the form of the new Phnom Penh – Sihanoukville expressway, an expanded airport and greatly improved provincial road connections.
These will be needed to support and encourage a broad-based economy centred on manufacturing, services, tourism and technology. Preah Sihanouk faces a variety of hurdles in achieving the stated development goals, not least a lack of capital, trained human resource and development know-how.
While infrastructure improvements are under way, major upgrades take time to bring on stream and development capacity will be somewhat limited until such time as these can be completed. Overall, Sihanoukville is well-positioned to leverage the substantial benefits bought by closer integration with the international community, particularly through the Belt and Road Initiative.
However, it requires the enactment of a robust framework for urban planning, local community engagement and a competitive and compelling offer to top talent, industry and tourists in order to realise a sustainable path to broad-based growth.
In recent years, the city has witnessed rapid development. The pace and scale of change has been dramatic and widespread.
Now there is a renewed focus on creating a sustainable future for Cambodia’s gateway city.