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Doubts voiced amid Chinese company’s plans to build a new city

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Country Garden Holdings is based in Guangdong, China, pictured above. The company has expressed interest in building a new city in Cambodia which could rival the city’s capital, Phnom Penh. GOOGLE

Doubts voiced amid Chinese company’s plans to build a new city

An audacious development project proposed by a Chinese developer that is slated to cost a staggering $5 billion is unlikely to be developed for another two decades.

The grandiose development planned for Cambodia is being spearheaded by Hong Kong-listed Country Garden Goldings, but has already drawn its fair share of skeptics.

In a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen at the Peace Palace last week, farmer-turned-developer Yang Guoqiang, chairman and founder of Country Garden Holdings Company, told the premier that his first visit to Cambodia is one of business, intending to study and research the prospects of building a modern satellite city in Cambodia.

Guoqiang disclosed to Hun Sen that his company, which had RMB 47,877.9 million ($7.3 billion) cash in hand at the end of 2015, had a sizeable investment budget of $5 billion which could be ploughed into Cambodia. It is understood Guoqiang’s company is already building a modern city in Malaysia that can house two million people, a concept which could be replicated in Cambodia.

During the meeting, Guoqiang asked for recommendations from the prime minister to examine the potential of developing a similar project in Cambodia, aimed at reducing traffic congestion in the capital and creating a modern and beautiful city. It is unclear if a blueprint is in the works, however.

In the meeting, Hun Sen welcomed studies for the city project, while advising the company to study the city’s Master Plan in order to determine the most ideal area to develop the new city.

Hun Sen asked the company to work closely with relevant officials to study the project in detail before investing because of the large-scale nature of such a massive development.

Focus Property general manager, Po Eavkong, said he received information about Country Garden Holdings through the media, and has not managed to get specific details from the company.

He said studies done on any large project normally take a long time because a project to build a city usually takes more than five years, especially taking into account the fact that this new city intends to house two million people.

He added, “It needs at least 20 years to build a new city because a Master Plan has to be created. Hence, this project would not happen in the next five to 10 years.”

“If you consider the amount of people going to live in that city, should it happen, a study done by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) estimated that in 2030, 50 to 60 per cent of people in any country will be living in the city compared to the total population density.”

Nonetheless, the project is still in limbo as authorities involved have yet to be informed of the project.

Lao Tip Seiha, under-secretary of state for the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction (MLMUPC), said the ministry has not received any proposal from Country Garden Holdings requesting permission to conduct research on any specific area to build its new city.

Mean Chanyada, one of City Hall’s spokesmen, also confirmed that City Hall has not received any request to study any particular area from the company.

Kim Heang, president of the CVEA, said he had heard rumours about how the company had garnered similar exaggerated hypes in Malaysia, leading him to believe that the project may be biting off more than it could chew.

“I support this project; it’s good, but it’s not time yet and there is still a long way to go. It’s not until the population in the city reaches seven to 10 million, and the country’s GDP is $5,000 to $7,000 per capita for it to be possible.”

“If there are only two million people in Phnom Penh and the GDP is only $1,300, it is not yet time for this project.”

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