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Cambodia’s growl too quiet to be Asia’s next tiger yet

The country is looking to the future under a pro-investment government. Foreign banks, private equity funds and manufacturers are interested, but there’s no guaranteed alpha on the Mekong. Lawrence White reports.

The cost of doing business


DRIVE NORTH OUT of Phnom Penh for 10 minutes or so and you’ll reach a flat stretch of dark yellow sand where the southernmost shore of Pong Peay lake used to be. At first it doesn’t look like much: children play in the remaining streets of the shanty town, rickety stalls sell drinks to a handful of Khmer idling on parked motorbikes. Then comes the sign: a huge arch proclaiming "New History is COMING" straddles the dirt road, and in the background cranes tower over half-built apartment blocks that dominate the flat land around them. A new city is being built.

Funded by Korean banks and built by Korea’s Hanil Engineering, Camko City – the name is a conflation of Cambodia and Korea – will offer apartments, houses, villas, a hospital, a school and a business district to house Cambodia’s new stock exchange. The latter, a joint venture with the Korean Stock Exchange, is to open in September 2009.

Back in Phnom Penh, Korean construction firm GS continues work on the new $1 billion, 52-storey IFC building that will tower over the city’s low skyline when it is completed in 2012.

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