Stephen Wyatt: The buzz is palpable in Phnom Penh

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Stephen WyattWhen I first got the call to attend the World Economic Forum, I thought, Davos here we come!  After some further reading, I realised I would not need my ski gear, just some sun tan lotion and mosquito spray.

The WEF on ASEAN is being held in Phnom Penh and it is easy to see why Cambodia has been selected to host: this country is on the rise! There is significant development activity happening in this city and the country as a whole with considerable foreign investment, especially from China.

This year’s event hosts over 400 senior figures and some of the biggest players in the region are attending, including heads of state from a number of ASEAN countries. There was a collective deep breath in the room yesterday when President Duterte took to the stage to provide his opening remarks, but it was a fairly low key speech, focusing on the positives of the region. This is a great opportunity to meet many industry leaders, catch up with some of our current clients and old friends in the real estate industry.

The key theme of this event is to celebrate 50 years since the formation of ASEAN and how the region can learn from the past and embrace the rapid changes we expect to see over the next 50 years.  The region has to become more competitive, increase collaboration, focus on innovation and connectivity, invest heavily on infrastructure and, above all, embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution, if it wants to remain competitive on a global stage.

In my mind, there is no question the ASEAN region has so much to offer over the coming decades. The growth and determination of the young and dynamic population will put this region even more prominently on the global map. Of course there are challenges from so many sides, but the passion and appetite to succeed from everyone that lives in this part of the world will carry this region forward to achieve great things in the future.

For more on how Southeast Asia’s young population is embracing the opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, take a look at our latest report.

Stephen Wyatt is Country Head, JLL Vietnam

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