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Brit banker sees growth ahead

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SIR PATRICK: Stability good for business

IMPROVED economic and political stability puts Cambodia in a position to achieve

greater economic prosperity in the near term and to benefit from a renewal of regional

economic growth, according to a captain of British industry who visited the Kingdom

last week.

Sir Patrick Gillam, chairman of the Standard Chartered Bank, was in town to officially

innaugurate the upgrade to branch status of the bank's operations in Cambodia and

to kick off the British Trade Fair held Apr 19-21.

"Yes," replied Gillam without hesitation when asked if the bank's upgrade

reflected its confidence in the ability to do business in Cambodia. "The country

has better political and economic stability."

However, Gillam said that serious challenges remain before the government.

The government must "re-build the country, grow tourism and grow the agriculture

sector so that there is more available wealth to deal with issues like the very great

poverty in the countryside," Gillam said.

The Asian Development Bank recently predicted that Cambodia would experience 4% GDP

growth in 1999 and 6% next year.

While cautioning that predicting economic change "is not an exact science",

Gillam said that there were signs that regional economies "shouldn't get any

worse" and that there were "small signs of recovery" in Thailand,

Singapore, Korea and Malaysia.

"Its next year before [renewed regional economic growth] really takes hold,"

said the British executive.

Referring to a "natural outlet" for goods from the Chinese province of

Yunnan, Gillam said "I could forsee a situation 5-10 years hence when the whole

of the region was a very vibrant economic part of Asia."

Standard Chartered's upgrade in Phnom Penh entails a $13.5 million capitalization

of its operations here.

According to Paul Freer, the bank's chief executive officer in Phnom Penh, these

funds will be used for lending and day-to-day operations, as well as providing letters

of credit to corporate clients here in Cambodia.

Funds have also been used to re-habilitate a colonial era structure prominently situated

on Norodom Blvd.

Freer said that Standard Chartered has also installed a SWIFT line - the first in

the Kingdom - which gives it a 24-hour capability to receive and transfer funds safely

and quickly.

There is an increased interest in investing in Cambodia, according to Freer.

"At the moment, things are looking very, very positive," he said.

Standard Chartered was just one of about 35 companies that put up exhibits at the

British Trade Fair. Event organizers said that more than 500 people attended.

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