Phnom Penh, a city once fabled for its stately colonial buildings and boulevards, and its serene riverside setting, is becoming a city of glaring contrasts.
An economy left in ruins by the years of war and violent revolution in the 1970s and 80s grew at a rate of almost 10% a year from 1998 to 2008. Cheap land, cheap labour and rich natural resources have attracted big inflows of foreign investment, especially from Asian neighbours like China, Vietnam and Thailand. That has ignited a property boom.
For the first time in its history Phnom Penh’s skyline is being pierced by modern high-rise towers, offering new office space and luxury apartments. Land prices are soaring, and developers are constantly seeking out new possibilities for construction.
One area they targeted was the city’s largest lake, Boeng Kak. A company owned by a senator from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, Shukaku, was given a 99-year lease to drain and build on the lake in 2007.
Another was the centre city neighbourhood of Borei Keila, which another politically-connected company, Phanimex, was given the right to develop in 2003. …
The International Monetary Fund has warned that a credit boom in Cambodia poses a threat to economic growth.
Banks have been cutting interest rates to win customers and private sector credit has increased by almost a third in the past 12 months, the fund said.
This means that borrowing levels are now equal to 37% of the country’s total economic output, well above the median for most other low-income nations.
A similar surge in 2008 saw a real-estate boom and bust, the fund warned. …
The National Bank of Cambodia…recently raised the amount of money that banks need to hold in reserve, making it harder for them to access the cash needed to lend.
However, the IMF said that raising the reserve requirement “does not automatically mean tighter credit conditions” and further steps were needed. …
BBC News Staff
Laos has given the go-ahead to build a massive dam on the lower Mekong river, despite opposition from neighbouring countries and environmentalists.
A formal ceremony marking the start of full construction at Xayaburi would be held on Wednesday, the government said. …
BBC News Staff
The Philippines has summoned Cambodia’s ambassador over comments linked to Manila’s territorial row with Beijing.
Hos Sereythonh was asked to explain remarks accusing the Philippines and Vietnam of playing “dirty politics” over the issue of Asean and the South China Sea.
[H]e did not turn up on Tuesday, saying that he was sick, said foreign department spokesman Raul Hernandez. …
At a regular meeting hosted by Cambodia last month, the 10-nation bloc for the first time in its 45-year history failed to issue a joint statement because of tensions over the maritime disputes.
In the published comments, Mr Hos accused the Philippines and Vietnam of attempting to “sabotage and hijack the joint communique” during the Asean meeting. …
The Philippines has accused Cambodia, a close ally of China, of blocking any mention of the South China Sea spat. …
Cambodia has been rebuilding after recently being hit by devastating floods that affected over one million citizens.
These sudden natural disasters are tough to predict but the United Nations believes that more needs to be done to limit their impact.
The BBC’s correspondent in Cambodia, Guy De Launey, spoke with Margareta Wahlstrom of the United Nations.
She told him why she thinks that rapid economic growth could be making matters worse.
It sounds like something from a Victorian novel – hundreds of young women falling, en masse, into a swoon. But this phenomenon has become a bafflingly common occurrence in modern-day Cambodia.
The incidents have been limited to women working in a small number of the country’s many garment factories. But, worryingly, they have been happening with increasing regularity in recent months.
Over two days in June, about 300 women reported sick at the King Fashion garment factory in Phnom Penh.
In July, about 50 workers at the Huey Chuen footwear factory apparently fainted – three months on from a similar incident involving 200 young women. In August, more than 200 people fell ill at two facilities owned by M&V International.
Official figures released this month suggest that a total of more than 1,500 workers have been involved in mass fainting incidents so far this year. The Ministry Of Labour said a variety of factors were involved, including “insecticides, smoke, high temperatures, stress and manual labour of lifting and storing”…
(Guy De Launey)