NORTHBRIDGE Communities Ltd, the Bangkok-based builder of up-market expatriate compounds
over Asia, has postponed phase one of its $94 million Phnom Penh estate due to the
uncertainty of Cambodian politics.
"Political stability is a major concern of investors," said Khaou Phallaboth,
executive director of Khaou Chuly, the Cambodian firm which has a ten per cent stake
in the joint venture.
The expected completion of a section of the International School Cambodia (ISC) -
the keystone of a five-year endeavor to accommodate Westerners - has been delayed
by a year until August 1998, because international financiers see Cambodia as a "high-risk"
country, said Phallaboth.
They would wait until after the 1998 election to decide whether to go through with
the rest of the project.
"We are taking risks, but we are entrepreneurs," he said.
"We believe in the future of Cambodia."
If it is completed in 2001, Northbridge Estates Phnom Penh, six kms west of Phnom
Penh, will cater to the housing, medical, recreational and shopping demands of 3000
But Marshall Perry, an American businessman who has worked overseas for 20 years
and seen similar projects, likened them to "rich men's ghettos which are 90
percent inhabited by expats."
The complex features the school, a hospital, office park, sports center, mini-shopping
mall, 24-hour electronic and manned surveillance and a rollerblade track.
"When completed," a promotional brochure says, "Northbridge Estates
will be a highly visible example of Cambodia's forward looking economy, and will
be a key to transforming Phnom Penh into a vibrant and modern city, ready to assume
a leading role in the continued dynamic economic development of Asia.... the community
will be universally perceived as a well-planned, permanently attractive area in Phnom
Penh, and a showpiece community in Southeast Asia."
But observers question whether this multi-million dollar attempt to lure foreign
investors and their families to Cambodia is a healthy concept for the country.
Although he welcomed the project as a way to attract foreign capital to spur economic
growth, Pen Dareth, vice-president of the Center for Advanced Study (CAS), said it
was important the fruits of the project be enjoyed by the Cambodian community-at-large.
"It seems to me that these rich people will be cutting themselves off from our
society," he cautioned. "If you do not open yourself up to another society
or integrate with it, you cannot exist within it."
Others who are combating urban poverty say Cambodian leaders should be as concerned
about solving the housing problems of Phnom Penh's 20,000 squatter families as they
are about solving the housing problems of a foreign elite.