Cheng Kheng (left). Photo Supplied
The Cambodian Valuers and Estate Agents Association is an institution playing a key role in work related to the property sector in Cambodia.
Cheng Kheng, director of the CPL Real Estate Company and elected to be president of the Cambodian Valuers and Estate Agents Association in December 2012, gave an interview recently to Siv Meng, a reporter at Post Property, to show the work of his association and his strategy to grow the association’s membership.
How many companies are there in your association so far?
There are many companies providing their services relating to the property sector in Cambodia, but at the moment, there are only 22 company members of the association, of which 20 companies are full members, and two others are supportive members. I can confirm that presently there are also a number of foreign companies asking to register to be members of the Cambodian Valuers and Estate Agents Association. If we have a strong stance, there will be more companies following suit, because we can discuss together to seek joint benefits for related companies as well as for the whole country.
As president, what strategy do you have for getting companies to become members?
For this case, we have discussed in detail to find out jointly agreed special points. As the president of 20 companies and 300 staff, if we want to talk to the press or the owners of buildings, condos or apartments, they will be glad to speak with us. In fact, over the time we have cooperated with the satellite Camko City project about what should we do to move forward the project and Camko City was happy to do so because Camko City didn’t need to spend the time for talks with companies one by one.
On the contrary, if we go to talk with them in the name of our private company, it can be difficult for them to make a decision, even if they think that our company is a big one. So, if we do in the name of association, we will recieve the benefit together.
What challenges and competition is there between licensed and unlicensed companies for doing business?
It always has an impact in general, because we are legally licensed companies, so we will spend much of our money relating to and working within the law. But unlicensed companies usually do whatever they want without paying tax and they frequently rock the market, impacting our legally licensed companies. When problems happen, the public will look at our companies as badly as the illegal companies. Previously there have been investors coming to Cambodia but they don’t prepare their plans well, causing bad effects to our company’s reputation and the customer’s confidence.
Therefore, what we did previously to become a professional and moral company may be impacted because of the illegally licensed companies.
What level of service have you provided to local and international customers?
In general, the different ideas in the evaluation of something always gets customers concerned about the standards of evaluation in the market. So I have a standard preparation, which is that property companies should speak in one voice. If there is any imbalance, it is only a little bit, but at an acceptable level, and we will conduct a meeting before making decisions.
What plan does the association have to strengthen human resources?
The association is part of the Asean Property Association, which we participate in through an annual meeting in different countries. Through the annual meeting, we can gather new experiences and techniques. In the name of association, we have selected experienced people over the years to provide training to our staff with the assistance of the concerned ministry. The standard of our evaluation on property can compete with other Asean countries.
What do you plan to do to promote the sector?
The association’s intention is to seek every means to control the property sector effectively and get property service companies to cooperate and compete justly and fairly. Over time, companies competed heavily, downgrading the association’s value. But we think that the association has the goals of working and talking together about how to provide interest mutually and how to be a partner to the government.
What does the association contribute to the government and what level of help does the association need from government?
Every country always has an association. For instance, if the Asean Valuers and Estate Agents Association is required to discuss land problems and our country is also an Asean member but we don’t have an association like other Asean countries, it will be bad for our country.
So, we need to improve our capacity because when we participate in meetings, we have to speak to enable others to know about our strong points in order to draw them to invest in our country, because our country has a variety of profitable ways to exploit both the heritage wealth, and the natural resources. In the past, because our country experienced wars, that’s why neighbouring countries can take advantages and benefit from our country.
The better policies and strong economic growth have made international investors interested in the opportunity to invest in Cambodia at gradually higher levels as our country has a wide range of natural resources and few natural disasters. When we look at Singapore, we see hundreds of skyscrapers. If investors want to invest between $100 to $200 million in Singapore, they don’t need to spend a long time considering the investment, but for our country, they need a long time to consider because they need to do research about our legal system before they cast money into our country. But with the efforts of government and all of us, there are more inflows of investors into our country. Only the efforts of government can’t be enough, it requires general people to join the government efforts because we are all part of society as well. If we don’t work hard to help the government, our country will not develop smoothly, as investors not only focus on the government, but also on the private sector.
Therefore, we want the government to strengthen law enforcement and we are standardising the value, and the professional morality for land prices that we put in the market place.
Are your companies, as well as the association, ready as Cambodia integrates more closely into ASEAN?
As we are the member of ASEAN, we really don’t want to see our people go abroad to work as unskilled workers. We don’t want to see such conditions. We are all people, we have a brain like other people, we have capacity like other people. We are a boss in our country, when we go to work abroad, we will be the same position, so we have to work hard. I have met Filippinos living in our country. They are bosses or leaders. In this context, as a person, we are also worried about that. So, we must work hard at thinking why they can achieve, and why we cannot achieve, and for us not to be underestimated. I saw a document about English knowledge in Asian countries like Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia, and it showed that Cambodians have most English knowledge among people in those countries.
Therefore, if we work hard together, we will be not inferior to those countries. They can do something, we can also do that and probably be superior to them.