What does Cambodia offer investors? Simply put: large markets, low wages, a liberal economy and some of the world´s great tourist attractions. The large markets are a function of location, not the domestic market of Cambodia but the markets of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN). The 10 member countries of ASEAN have a total population of around 550 million and participate in a free-trade area (AFTA) that will become full-fledged by 2010. ASEAN is also negotiating a free-trade area with China and may be doing so with India. Finally, there are the rich markets of Europe and North America, to which Cambodia, as a least developed country (LDC), has preferential access.
As for the liberal economy, Cambodia has one of the most open economies in Asia, ranking on a par with Japan, and the most open economy among the world´s 49 LDCs. Its low-wage, trainable labour force is, of course, an asset in an increasingly competitive world economy. When it comes to tourism, the extraordinary monuments of Angkor near Siem Reap already ensure that Cambodia attracts tourists at an annual growth rate of 30 per cent and more.
The problems endemic to countries at an early stage of economic development have been exacerbated in Cambodia by the conflict and instability of the 1970s and 1980s. The brief and bloody rule of the Khmer Rouge, in particular, did much long-term damage. Professional qualifications are a scarce commodity; road infrastructure is limited and in poor condition, especially in rural areas; and administrative capacity is limited.
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