Executive outlook for 2018

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Thong Khon​ Minister of Tourism

Thong Khon​
Minister of Tourism

Thong Khon​
Minister of Tourism

For the year 2017, we expect to receive 5.6 million foreign tourists. This will be the first time we experience double digit growth in traveller volume in almost 10 years, since the global financial crisis in 2007. The reason we are growing at such a fast pace is because Cambodia is a peaceful and stable tourist destination that provides good services and a clean environment to visitors. Most foreign tourist in 2017 came from China – which accounted for one million people alone – Vietnam, South Korea, Japan, the US and Europe, among others.

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This year there was political turmoil, but it wasn’t a political crisis. I don’t think the dissolution of Cambodia’s National Rescue Party (CNRP) killed democracy in the country. What we are doing is protecting democracy; we are respecting the rule of law and protecting our constitution. We don’t have the CNRP anymore, but we still have many other political parties that respect the law. Governments are always criticised, whether they do the right thing or not.

Next year will be a good year for tourism. We usually do not experience a decline in tourist numbers when we hold elections. We are still expecting double digit growth for 2018.

Hoem Seiha
Research director of VTrust Appraisal

Hoem Seiha

Overall the outlook for the market is very positive, bolstered by growth in the housing market, especially low-rise, landed properties. Development projects that offer lower priced housing units were more common in 2017, with demand for high-end properties seemingly slowing down in the last two years. Case in point, 1,200 units of single-detached villas were launched from 2013 to 2015. However, in 2016-2017, only 500 entered the market.

The property market has been characterised by mild growth this year, with the housing and condominium sectors experiencing much more robust growth from 2014 to 2016. This mild growth is a result of a slowdown in primary demand for condominiums, mostly purchased by foreigners.

Meanwhile, secondary demand for completed homes is still strong. The current political situation may put off some buyers – particularly Khmers that hold dual citizenship and live in the West – but I don’t think it has a huge effect in the local market because here the main house buyers are local residents and they are used to the political situation in the country.

Keo Mom
President of the Cambodia Women Entrepreneur Association and director of Ly Ly Food Industry

Keo Mom

The SME sector will continue to expand in 2018 thanks to economic and political stability in the country. Due to governmental efforts, more and more SMEs are registering and operating under the rule of law, which is what the sector needs to keep on growing.

Another welcomed development in the sector was Prime Minister Hun Sen’s announcement that an SME-specialised bank is in the works. I expect this new institution to expand financing options for small entrepreneurs to help them grow their businesses.

I really hope this new SME-specialised bank will be a big departure from regular commercial banks, which often have stricter requirements, such as stringent collateral conditions, that can really limit the options for many small entrepreneurs.

The upcoming five to 10 years will see opportunities for local entrepreneurs multiply, as they can take advantage of increasing investment from China, South Korea and Japan, among other nations. They must take the opportunity to learn from them to become more competitive in the global marketplace.

In Channy
President and group managing director of Acleda Bank

In Channy

At the annual bankers’ dinner on December 10, Chea Chanto, the governor of the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC), said growth in the banking sector this year was strong, increasing by 18 and 20 percent for loan portfolios and saving deposits compared with 2016.

For any business, including banks, there are three major factors that one needs to always consider: costs, benefits and risks. You can minimise costs, which would lead you to maximising benefits, which, in turn, will maximise revenue for shareholders. However, when it comes to risk, it has to be a sector-wide effort, including the regulators. We all have to work together to reduce risks.

Cambodian regulators, like regulators in any other country, need to protect the interests of customers at large by issuing new regulations that help minimise risks. At the same time, banks must make sure they abide by the new regulations to minimise their own risks. In short, new regulations do not stop banks from growing; on the contrary, they help banks grow sound and safe, minimising risks, and, in the end, they help protect stakeholders’ interests.

I don’t think next year will be a tough one because of the elections. It will be like any other year. If you look into the performance of most banks in election years, you will see that they generally experience robust growth and are able to achieve their targets.

Sen Sovann
Director-general of the general directorate of animal health and production (GDAHP)

Sen Sovann

In 2017, we focused on budget management, human resources development, strengthening laboratory capability, studying animal diseases and boosting international cooperation with regional countries and development partners.

The Cambodia Livestock Raisers Association continues to demand a stop to pig imports, or, at least, a reduction of the quota now in place. They need to understand that we cannot reject imports based only on what’s best for our producers. This would go against the rules of the WTO and we could get in serious trouble for this.

Instead, I asked farmers and businessmen in the association to change their business models to be able to compete with foreign firms. If they do this, we might consider doing something about the quota in the future.

In 2018, we plan to put measures in place to increase the production of chicken, duck and cow feed. We are also encouraging firms to invest in the local pig market, to provide a boost to the sector and help local companies compete with pig raisers abroad.

Thourn Sinan
Country director of the Hungarian-Cambodian Trading House

Thourn Sinan

There hasn’t really been any major achievements since we opened our representative office in Cambodia last year. We continue to diligently work to boost trade between Hungary and the kingdom.

Now we are focusing on exporting soybeans, rubber, sesame and pepper to Hungary. In cooperation with different local companies, we are working on determining a price and figuring out the export requirements.

Let’s talk about soybeans, for example. We want to send about 10,000 tonnes per year, but first we need to find out the price of this commodity in the international market. As you know, the prices of agricultural commodities are never stable.

When it comes to the upcoming elections, I do believe that they will impact business activity in the country. Like it or not, the political turmoil in Cambodia has made headlines around the world, and foreign investors know what’s going on and may be more reluctant to put their money here.

On the bright side, Hungary now wants to open a diplomatic office in Phnom Penh. In return, Cambodian officials will be invited to visit Hungary. These are really good signs of increasing rapport, and I do expect bilateral trade to continue to expand.

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