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The potential of Cambodia

The potential of Cambodia

Whenever you build a structure, you always start with a plan that exists first as an idea and then makes its way to paper and then usually a model: and this is true of ships or skyscrapers.

Then comes the construction process when you bring in materials and labour and your structure begins to take shape, like the Vattanac Tower here in Phnom Penh, designed in the shape of a dragon and soon to be covered in prefabricated glass panels, made in Shanghai.

This was only an idea in somebody’s head not long ago and now it will certainly become a lasting icon that dominates the Phnom Penh skyline as the tallest building in Cambodia.

Cambodia today, because of the traumatic past and young population, needs all kinds of such bold new ideas, ventures, commitments and innovations as a way of inventing a better future for the citizens here.

The NGOs did an heroic job in the early 1990s when the population needed everything from clothing to shoes and water to drink. But now, the era of the NGO is drawing down, as it should, in favour of a real commercial culture that operates on a free market basis where businesses compete to provide goods and services to the population.

This is wonderful for Cambodians because it means they get increasing choices, and competition promotes efficiency which translates into better prices.

There’s a phrase in Khmer that comes from Buddhism that translates: you do good, you get good; you do bad, you get bad. That’s true and the truth bears repeating because it is easy to forget.

If you take the possibility of new business from a position of problem-solving, all you have to do is look at the people around Cambodia and see what they need. They need better roads, more schools, hospitals, airports, hotels and something even more important that’s not physical.

The difference between moving unhappily through life and really making it count, really realising your dreams comes down to your spirit. That good spirit is contagious and people can be energised by others who radiate an optimistic entrepreneurial spirit all around them. Cambodians need to be energised in the possibility of a common, interconnected vision of the country through a multitude of projects.

Vattanac Tower is one such optimistic, visionary project and there are so many more that haven’t even been dreamed up yet. These are heady days for Cambodia. You can walk down a street, see a property with a “For Rent” sign, make the call, sign the lease and be in business the following week.

The population is very likely to reward that kind of risk-taking shown by Vattanac, and any company that articulates a bold vision of the future and has the courage to take the risk. They’re taking risks as any entrepreneur does.

Cambodia at this moment is in a stage of rapid development and therefore is rich with opportunities. In this environment, fortune favours the brave.

This “stage of the game” is what differentiates Cambodia from all other countries on Planet Earth. There’s no place like Cambodia for going to bed at night, dreaming of a new business and waking up the next day, looking around and noticing that the conditions are present to go out and make it happen.

As long as you have a clear vision and enough money to pay wages, the world will yield to you.

After a dinner on Friday night at Luu Meng’s Yi Sang restaurant at the tourist information center along the river, which was memorable and delicious, our party ended up at the Blue Pumpkin, upstairs along the riverside with its white décor and a menu with a variety of choices.

Just as we sat down, a group of about 30 youngsters walked in, possibly from a school group. They all ordered ice-cream and blended fruit drinks and thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere. They probably spent more than $100 altogether.

I thought of Blue Pumpkin owner Arnaud Curtat as a young baker in France, dreaming of some day having his own outlet for his own fine baked goods: and here I was watching at least 30 youngsters come in, overwhelm the kitchen, and order everything on the menu.

Curtat’s vision, years ago, of a clean, white space where people could enjoy good food and drinks not only came true, it worked and continues to work.

Build it and they will come.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart Alan Becker at [email protected]


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