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Projects and project management in Cambodia

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The Kingdom of Cambodia is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by Thailand to the northwest, Laos to the northeast and Vietnam to the east. The country looks back to a long history that can be traced back to the year 802, when Jayavarman united the warring Khmer princes of Chenla under the name “Kambuja”. The empire which flourished for over six hundred years, allowing successive kings to control and exert influence over much of Southeast Asia and accumulate immense power and wealth. The Indianized kingdom built monumental temples including Angkor Wat and facilitated the spread of first Hinduism, then Buddhism to much of Southeast Asia. After the fall of Angkor to Ayutthaya in the 15th century, a reduced and weakened Cambodia was then ruled as a vassal state by its neighbors. In 1863 Cambodia became a protectorate of France which doubled the size of the country by reclaiming the north and west from Thailand.

The country gained independence 1953, unfortunately that brought more problems than it solved. US troops extended the Vietnam war into Cambodia. In 1975, the “Khmer Rouge” under the leadership of Pol Pot took over power and killed several million people in the “killing fields”. The regime was ended in 1979 with support of Vietnamese forces and turned into a new regime under the leadership of the Cambodian People’s Party and King Norodom Sihamoni, eldest son of the former King Norodom Sihanouk.

The economy of Cambodia follows nowadays an pen market system, reaching a nominal GDP of nearly 40 billion US Dollars in 2016. Although rapidly increasing, the per capita income is low compared with most countries in the region. Cambodia’s two largest industries are textiles and tourism, while agricultural activities remain the main source of income for many Cambodians living in rural areas. Services are concentrated on trading activities and catering-related services. Recently, Cambodia has reported that oil and natural gas reserves have been found off-shore Cambodia’s foreign policy focuses on integrating itself into regional (ASEAN) and global (WTO) trading systems.

Projects in Cambodia are financed by the World Bank, focusing on health, education, trade facilitation, and public financial management. Also the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is engaged in Cambodia especially in building capabilities in public institutions, water supplies in rural areas as well as in education and training. Also in construction and the real estate sector there are many projects under way. When asked, Land Management Minister Chea Sophara attributed the surge in the value of approved construction projects to two main factors: investor confidence in Cambodia attracting more big developers, and his team carrying out a government directive to improve the speed and quality of services. “Based on the government’s new policy, we must provide good service to those investors who submit full details of their projects and specifics on their plans and investments,” he said However, there is a huge need for investment in the country to re-build infrastructure and catch-up with the rest of the region / world.

What concerns project management, the profession is not yet established. First talks of IPMA showed that there is interest of establishing a PM Association, engaging Government, major Universities, key industries as well as institutions such as the Association of Banks, Cambodia Constructors Association or the ICT Federation of Cambodia. IPMA together with the APFPM Asia-Pacific Federation of Project Management will support in building up necessary capabilities and networking with other countries in the region.

- Author of this post

Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 30 years in the field of project- related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Air Defense, Automotive Engineering, and Machinery, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As a Certified Projects Director (IPMA Level A), he has proven experience in managing projects, programmes and project portfolios in complex and dynamic contexts. He is also an IPMA Certified Programme and Portfolio Management Consultant, and as such supports senior executives in developing and improving their organizational competence in managing projects. For more than 15 years, he has been actively involved in the development of project, programme and portfolio management standards, for example as Convenor of the ISO 21500 “Guidance on Project Management” and the ISO 21503 “Guidance on Programme Management”. Reinhard Wagner is Past President of IPMA and Chairman of the Council, Honorary Chairman of GPM (the German Project Management Association), as well as Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH.

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